EDITORIAL: Refugees need help to stand on their own, not handouts

Rwanda and refugees are inseparable subjects. Two in every three Rwandan adults has either lived a life of a refugee or experienced some form of displacement fleeing violence.

Coming up with a country that can rival Rwanda in producing refugees in the last half a century would be a daunting task.

 

With over 170,000 refugees - mostly from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi – it goes out of its way to make the lives of every refugee as comfortable as possible within the realms of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

 

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of some of the key stakeholders and the sad state of affairs that has led to a drastic reduction in food rations. World Food Program (WFP) has on several occasions complained of insufficient funds and has to do with what it has.

 

Refugees in Rwanda could not be living a starred life but at least they are not restricted. Last month, the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs (now renamed Ministry in charge of Emergency Management) in conjunction with the Immigration department rolled out machine-readable travel documents for the refugees.

The logic here is that refugees are not prisoners and should have freedom of movement. They should be free to explore other sources of livelihood without becoming lifetime dependents of handouts that many had turned out to be.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees is also moving away from the traditional food and non-food donations in favour of cash.

So it was welcome news that the government in partnership with some financial institutions is taking financial services to the refugees. They will now be able to have access to emergency loans or start small-scale businesses.

That is what a refugee needs; a push in the right directions equipped with the necessary tools.

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