The Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) is seeking an increase of Rwf1.5 billion on its annual budget in the next fiscal year to facilitate return of more Rwandan returnees and intensify disaster prevention campaigns.
The Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, Seraphine Mukantabana, announced this, yesterday, while appearing before the parliamentary Committee on National Budget and Patrimony, which is assessing Budget Estimates for the next three financial years.
While MIDIMAR is currently running on a Budget of Rwf3.8 billion, it has requested for Rwf5.3 billion for the 2016/17 financial year, which, officials said, is a better package needed to deal with repatriation of Rwandan refugees and increase efforts for disaster management in the country.
Unlike in the current fiscal year when MIDIMAR had planned that 10,000 former Rwandan refugees would be repatriated and integrated into society, it has planned for 20,000 returnees in the next financial year.
The reason for the expected influx of returnees is that the international community has invoked the Cessation Clause on Rwandan refugees, which ends their refuge status unless they re-apply to become refugees.
The Cessation Clause
As part of invoking the Cessation Clause, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has announced that it will stop organising returns of former Rwandan refugees on December 31, while it won’t be considering any Rwandan as a refugee by December 31, 2017, unless they re-apply to become one on a case-by-case basis.
The decision is likely to drive massive return of Rwandans instead of them remaining in host countries where it will be hard for to be considered as refugees anymore, officials say.
“There never enough budget to help refugees but we hope that we can get basic needs for them if the government provides the money we have requested for in the next budget,” Mukantabana said as she defended the ministry Budget Proposal.
Her call is likely to be heeded by many legislators in the committee.
“Once these people are deleted from UNHCR computers, we will have to receive them here. That’s one of the reasons MIDIMAR has to increase its budget for refugees affairs,” said MP Constance Mukayuhi Rwaka, the committee chairperson.
The External Relations Officer for UNHCR in Rwanda, Martina Pomeroy, told The New Times, yesterday, that the plan is to have about 30,000 Rwandan former refugees repatriated by the end of the year.
Other reasons why MIDIMAR needs a bigger package for the next financial year include to take care of more than 150,000 refugees currently living in Rwanda and protect the environment in several camps scattered around the country where they are sheltered.
There are also planned campaigns to sensitise Rwandans to prevent disasters, especially those who are tempted to live in high-risk zones or ignore the country’s fire safety regulations.
“We are asking people to change their attitude and start thinking about preventing disasters where they live,” Mukantabana told journalists shortly after appearing before the legislators.
Several members of the committee advised the ministry to focus more on preventing disasters instead of spending millions of francs dealing with response.
“We advised them to have a strong early warning system so that Rwandans can be told about the probable disaster cases so they can prevent them,” Mukayuhi said.