Midimar in fresh bid to reintegrate returnees

The Ministry for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (Midimar) has embarked on a new campaign to ensure all Rwandan returnees are fully reintegrated into society.

The Ministry for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (Midimar) has embarked on a new campaign to ensure all Rwandan returnees are fully reintegrated into society.

This requires providing returnees basic needs such as shelter, education, health care and food which remain a challenge, according to Seraphine Mukantabana, the Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs.

Mukantabana was speaking at a workshop attended by social affairs officials from 10 districts and 20 sectors across the country in Kigali yesterday.

The meeting was convened to chart ways of implementing the second phase of Sustainable Return and Reintegration of Rwandan Returnees project which started July 2014.

Mukantabana said about 96 per cent of returnee households lack shelter, only a half of them can afford health insurance, while 11 per cent have no identity cards and lack birth certificates for their children.

“We need joint efforts to ensure the welfare of returnees,” she noted.

She said much as the government is doing its best for returnees including extending free 12-year basic education to children, scholastic materials and school uniforms, remain a challenge.

 “Providing education alone is not enough, they need to be availed with other basic necessities,” the minister said, appealing to United Nations organs supporting reintegration projects to increase                                   funding.

She said ensuring good welfare for returnees would inspire other Rwandans still in exile to repatriate. She also appealed to local leaders to be close to returnees to understand their challenges and make them feel comfortable.

 Dr Saber Azam, the country Representative of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for Rwanda, said the government had made tremendous efforts to ensure welfare of returnees, even when the UN support is still low.

“UN offers $300 per returnee for their entire  life. This support is very low since a returnee needs education, food, health, among others,” he said.

Social affairs officials also cited  insufficient funds among the most pressing challenges facing the reintegration process.

“Rubavu has many returnees  since it is close to the border (with DR Congo). We try to help them but some basic needs remain unfulfilled owing to limited means,” Eugenie Nirere, Social Protection Officer in Rubavu District, Western Province, said.

About $12 million was set aside for implementation of two phases of the project through June 2015.

The first phase was implemented in five districts of Rubavu, Nyamagabe, Nyabihu, Musanze and Bugesera, which had higher numbers of returnees.

In the second phase five more districts, Rusizi, Nyamasheke, Karongi, Ngororero and Rutsiro were added.

The project targeted 70,000 returnees.

It seeks to offer returnees shelter, education, technical and vocational skills, anti-retroviral medication and good diet for those living with HIV/Aids.

It also offers identification documents, and improved seeds for farming and livestock to get manure for increased agriculture productivity. This will be done based on results from needs assessment.

So far, about 3.4 million Rwandans have returned to the country since 1994, according to Midimar.