The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is offering a cash incentive of $250 (about Rwf200,000) to any Rwandan adult refugee and $150 (about Rwf125,000) to any of their minors who returns home before the end of 2017.
The offer, which is being extended in partnership with Airtel Rwanda and I&M Bank, is expected to motivate the refugees to return before the UNHCR implements the Cessation Clause.
The Cessation Clause for Rwandan refugees came into effect on June 30, 2013, and provides for three options; voluntary repatriation, invocation of refugee status and local integration, as well as individual application for refugee status with convincing reasons.
On top of the money, the returnees are offered free medical insurance for a year, a free mobile phone and free transportation to any destination within the country.
How it will work
Speaking at a news conference at the UN agency’s offices in Kigali on Thursday, UNHCR country representative Saber Azam said the money will be a one-time assistance that will help the returnees to solve their problems as they see fit.
A returnee will be given a free Airtel simcard and it will be loaded with the amount that is appropriate for a minor or an adult.
“We are providing quality services to refugees. With the provision of cash, this will give the returnees liberty to use this money as they deem fit, and possibly partner with other local people to advance themselves. This is a dignified way of celebrating their return to a country with lots of prospects and possibilities,” he said.
The new cash incentive assistance replaces the distribution of essential household items that refugees used to be given upon return, tempting some of them to sell part or all of what was provided.
Azam also said, in so doing, UNHCR was aware of a possibility of fraud and warned against it.
“We are aware that some people may want to recycle and use fraudulent means to access this money. With the help of the Government, particularly the national office of identification, we have in place strong mechanisms that will notify us of such people and this is punishable by law,” the UNHCR country chief said.
The chief executive of I&M Bank, Robin Bairstow, said the new partnership was one of the bank’s reaffirmation of encouraging more Rwandans to join the formal financial services sector.
“This payment platform not only allows for Rwandan returnees to be economically independent but also presents financial choices to them,” he said.
Airtel Rwanda marketing director Moses Abindabizemu said the partnership was an opportunity to change people’s lives.
“Every individual has different needs and they change over time. With cash, you can make choices. It is opportunity to be entrepreneurial. I see cash as an enabler that opens up your potential,” he said.
Millions of Rwandans have fled to exile from 1959 through to 1994.
The UNHCR has since helped more than 3.4 million Rwandans to return home. Since 2009, it has assisted 70,000 to return and, in 2016 alone, some 5,600 of have returned.
The agency is expecting at least 20,000 refugees from DR Congo, Zambia, Cameroon and other countries. Currently, there are 1,000 Rwandan refugees waiting to return from the DR Congo.