Zimbabwe will repatriate hundreds of Rwandan nationals staying in the southern African country as refugees in compliance with the Cessation Clause which has certified Rwanda as safe for them to return.
The Zimbabwean Minister for Public Service, Labour and Social Services, Prisca Mupfumira, said the Rwandans should go back and participate in the rebuilding of their country. Minister Mupfumira said the Rwandans will be repatriated by December 31 this year.
The minister was speaking during her maiden tour of Tongogara Refugee Camp where she donated some foodstuffs last Friday.
Refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo, Mozambique, Somalia and Ethiopia are staying at the refugee camp, almost five hundred kilometers south east of Harare.
“It's not the government of Zimbabwe coming with a position that Rwandan refugees must go back come December 31,” Minister Mupfumira said.
“It's a position taken last year in October in Geneva affecting Rwandans where ever they may be.”
She said refugee status should not be a permanent situation.
“The idea of being a refugee is not a permanent issue,” said the minister.
“I have been a refugee before independence in the UK but when we got independence the UNHCR had to come and repatriate us.”
She said Zimbabwe will comply with the Cessation Clause and repatriate all Rwandans.
“Come December 31 the Cessation Clause will come into effect. Our hands are tied because we have to comply with the UN,” Mupfumira said.
But many Rwandan refugees staying in Zimbabwe are reluctant to return to their motherland. Some say they have already started families in Zimbabwe and can no longer leave the country.
Rwandan refugees fled to Zimbabwe in the aftermath of the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994.
Previous statistics put the figure of Rwandan refugees in Zimbabwe at close to 400.
Recently government and UNHCR announced that voluntary returnees upon arrival in Rwanda, are given a lump sum of $250 per adult person to support their resettlement, while children are entitled to $150.
The government has already prepared Nyarushishi camp in Rusizi District to receive the returnees, according to Seraphine Mukantabana, the Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs.
By December 31, 2017, any Rwandan who will not have repatriated will not be considered as a refugee.
The Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs estimates that about 280,000 Rwandans could be still living as refugees across 20 countries in the world. Majority of them, close to 245,000 are believed to be in the DR Congo.