Twenty three years ago, Rwanda was befallen the Genocide against the Tutsi. This resulted in people fleeing their homes and leaving Rwanda and becoming refugees in other countries. Yesterday, the country celebrated Liberation Day which marked the end of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and gave the opportunity to refugees to return home.
As Rwanda celebrates the remarkable achievement of peace and continued refugee repatriation, it is important to remember that some Rwandan refugees are still spread across the world. At the same time, it is important to remember that there are refugees from other countries in Rwanda, some of whom are children. Those children have a right to protection.
To begin with, children have a right to protection no matter their status or nationality. This is according to article 28 of the constitution of the Republic of Rwanda which says, “Every child is entitled to special measures of protection by his/her family, society and the State that are necessary, depending on the status of the child, under national and international law.”
Refugee children require special measures of protection because some of them lose their parents, and experience or witness traumatic events. They also live with the fear and uncertainty of leaving their homes and countries and never knowing when it will be possible to return.
Article 49 of N°54/2011 of 14/12/2011 the law relating to the rights and the protection of the child therefore says that refugee children must always be provided with the help that they require. It states: “Any child who seeks to obtain refugee status or who is considered as a refugee in accordance with applicable laws, whether alone or accompanied by his/her parents or any other person, receives protection and humanitarian assistance in order to allowhim/her to enjoy the rights that are recognized to him/her.”
Once a childhas been granted refugee status, he/she is given food, shelter, clothing and arrangements are made to provide education. This is because a refugee child, just like other children, has the right to these basic needs.
Another special measure of protection granted to refugee children is stipulated in article 50 paragraph one of the law relating to the rights and the protection of the child. It say, “The child must be protected and rescued first during of disaster or armed conflict.” This makes sense because children are delicate. Besides, compared to adults, children have longer lives ahead of them.
To prevent their innocence and childhood from being disrupted, article 50 paragraph two of the law relating to the rights and the protection of the child prohibits military services for anyone below the age of eighteen.
If a refugee child is found to be alone, the government “shall, within its means, ensure and facilitate the physical and psychological recovery and the social reintegration of any child affected by a disaster or armed conflict.” This is stated in article 50 paragraph three of N°54/2011 of 14/12/2011 the law relating to the rights and the protection of the child.