Refugees acquire machine readable travel documents

The Minister for Disaster Management and Refugees, Jeanne d’Arc De Bonheur (left), hands a travel document to a refugee in Kigali yesterday. Sam Ngendahimana.

Refugees living in Rwanda can now process machine readable travel documents to facilitate their travel abroad.

The travel document, which was launched yesterday is part of the Government of Rwanda’s strategy to help refugees in the country become self-reliant through trade, employment, and other opportunities beyond borders.


Rwanda hosts about 150,604 refugees and 5,293 asylum seekers.


Anaclet Kalibata, the Director General of Immigration and Emigration, said the new refugee travel documents are machine readable contrary to the previous ones that could not be scanned by any machines.


“With the previous ones, a refugee could travel abroad and machines could not read them. This could trigger refusal of entry into another country,” he said.

He added that the new documents will be produced locally contrary to the old ones which used to be produced from Geneva, making the process long.

The Government, in collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency, has so far produced at least 20,000 machine readable travel documents

“This is part of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards. It will have a validity of five years at an affordable price (Rwf10,000). This is an important achievement in the history of issuance of travel documents in Rwanda,” Kalibata said.

The new travel document for refugees shall bear personal data and a photo of the refugee as well as a machine readable section that conform to ICAO standards.

It will contain 32 visa pages. The previous ones have been recalled.

“Since 2016, over 166 refugees had been issued with travel documents. They are now encouraged to apply for the machine readable travel documents,” Kalibata said.

Ten refugees have already received their new travel documents.

The move is in line with the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees, which was ratified by Rwanda in 1979.

UNHCR Representative in Rwanda, Ahmed Baba Fall, said the travel documents will have an important impact on the lives of refugees in Rwanda seeking to do gainful activities across the borders such as business, study, medical treatment or family reunification.

Providing identity cards

Rwanda is also issuing Identity Cards to refugees who are 16 years old and above. This is one of the commitments made at the 2016 Leaders’ Summit on Refugees by the Government of Rwanda.

The Minister for Disaster Management and Refugees, Jeanne d’Arc De Bonheur, said that, so far, 4,000 refugees have been issued with identity cards.

“One of the fundamental rights of refugees is the right to free movement in different countries except their country of origin,” she said.

The Government of Rwanda committed to make sure that the refugees it hosts get access to legal documents, which would facilitate them to access different services, including safe and free cross-border movement, she added.

“We will no longer miss opportunities to travel anywhere to seek job opportunities, do business and feed our families. Refugees should make use of these documents to improve their welfare,” said Patrice Ndabahaka, the representative of urban refugees.


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