Sometimes, people are forced to leave their own countries in order to have a chance at surviving natural disasters, conflict or prosecution. For instance, in the history of mankind there are many accounts of people fleeing their places of origin because of political instability. Others flee due to religious persecution.
When this happens, they lose the security of having their own homes, jobs and they are now unsure of how they will survive. They are forced to endure difficulties and sometimes, human rights abuses. Sometimes families get separated. This is the plight of people who are known as refugees.
As foreigners in other countries, they are now at the mercy of the government of the country to which they have run. They also rely on the kindness and receptiveness of the citizens of those countries.
If a child from another country seeks to obtain refugee status in Rwanda or is considered a refugee, he/she has the right to receive protection and humanitarian assistance. This is according to article 49 of the law relating to the rights and the protection of the child. Humanitarian assistance includes food, shelter and other basic needs and rights of a child such as education.
Article 49 of the law relating to the rights and the protection of the child continues to state that a refugee child will receive the necessary protection and assistance whether he/she is alone or accompanied by his/her parents.
Additional assistance provided to refugee children also includes helping the unaccompanied children towards reunification with their families. This is in line with article 49 paragraph two of the law relating to the rights and the protection of the child.
The extra effort to assist unaccompanied children to reunite with their families perhaps has something to do with article 27 paragraph one of the constitution of the Republic of Rwanda. It states: “The family, which is the natural foundation of Rwandan society, is protected by the state.”
Not only are children refugees given assistance, they are given first priority. This is according to article 50 of the law relating to the rights and the protection of the child. It statuses that “the child must be protected and rescued first during of disaster or armed conflict.”
Article 50 paragraph two of the law relating to the rights and the protection of the child provides for more measures to protect children especially during conflict. It says, “Military service is prohibited for children under eighteen (18) years.” This means that if a child is recruited to fight, no matter whether it’s for a good cause, it’s illegal.
The above provision is especially important because during conflict, children refugees are already robbed of the certainty about a good future. Getting involved in conflict would further rob them of their innocence.
Even after disaster or conflict, children are entitled to physical and psychological recovery, and social reintegration. This is according to article 50 paragraph three of the law relating to the rights and the protection of the child.