The supervisors of the Diaspora survey being carried out in Belgium, claim that at least 20 percent of the Rwandans living in the European country participated.
Valeska Onken, the project coordinator for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the international consultant conducting the survey, Dr. Gaston Rwasamanzi note that this is “based on a population of 6,000 Rwandans officially declared in the Belgian Ministry of Home Affairs.”
In an exclusive interview at the Foreign Ministry (Minaffet) last Friday, Onken observed that despite the existence of ‘some real militant hardliners’ in the Diaspora, there are also Rwandan youths with a real will to be united, a position that was seconded by Rwasamanzi.
“Activities of opposition groups in Belgium should not overshadow the success of the survey and the encouraging prospects mostly among the youth in opposition groups is their willingness to join the national unity programme,” Rwasamanzi noted in a subsequent email to The New Times.
Despite some difficulties, the researchers appeared contented that after successfully distributing 1,200 questionnaires to Rwandans with different opinions.
The one-year pilot study which started in Belgium in January aims at enhancing government-Diaspora links as a way of promoting investment and development.
Quantitative and qualitative data is being gathered on Rwandans in Belgium to find out their ‘potential,’ including things like qualifications and expertise that could benefit Rwanda and the survey is likely to be replicated in other countries.
Onken and Rwasamanzi, however, admit that getting the real number of Rwandans in Belgium is still a challenge.
“It is really a challenge because we have official figures but the reality is different.
Official figures of Rwandans living in Belgium is about 6,000 – this is a figure by the ministry of home affairs in Belgium but according to [Rwandan] embassy estimates, Rwandans in Belgium to be about 17,000,” said Rwasamanzi.
“And this can be explained by various reasons one reason being that asylum seekers preferred to hide their origins for various reasons,” he said.
“There are some real militant hardlininers in the Diaspora,” Onken observed, as he outlined some of the obstacles they encountered in their research.
“The person opposed to the country’s development wouldn’t want to fill the forms.
It was an uphill struggle but we did everything,” Onken said, also pointing out that the survey’s questionnaire steered clear of particulars like name, ethnicity and address.
Rwasamanzi noted that generally, the Diaspora in Belgium is divided and recommends a good and strong Diaspora leadership in the country which he said would effectively bridge the gap.
“It will last until the end of the year and hopefully we can present results at the Diaspora Convention in December. So far we are very successful. We are totally on track,” Onken said.