The UN Refugee Agency has commended the government for the continuous efforts to repatriate Rwandan nationals still under refugee’s status, and ensuring that no Rwandans remain stateless in the world.
This follows new findings that indicate that up to 12 million people in the world are stateless and while their families may have lived for generations in a particular country, yet on paper, they do not exist anywhere.
Stateless people are persons without a nationality.
According to the research by UNHCR, as stateless people are not citizens of their host countries, they are often denied basic rights and access to employment, housing, education, healthcare and pensions.
In an interview with The New Times, the head of the Statelessness Unit at UNHCR in Geneva, Mark Manly, said that though there were some Rwandan refugees in the Diaspora still considered Rwandan nationals but who remain stateless, the government has continued to convince them to repatriate voluntarily.
“Most refugees who flee their countries retain their original nationality and are not stateless. This is the case with the Rwandan refugees in the Diaspora. It is a fundamental right of all citizens to enter, reside, and enjoy freedom of movement in their own countries.
“It is a positive development that the current government is welcoming Rwandan refugees from the Diaspora to return to their country of citizenship and to contribute to the development of Rwandan society,” Manly observed.
Stateless people are not allowed to own property, open a bank account, get married legally or register the birth of a child.
The findings show that there is no Rwandan national who is stateless, a situation attributed to the law reforms that the current government changed to avoid statelessness.
“For example, under the Rwandan law, any child born in Rwanda to unknown or stateless parents automatically acquires Rwandan citizenship.
“Also, under Rwandan law, any child born to at least one Rwandan parent abroad is a Rwandan citizen. Both of these elements mean that Rwanda contributes to the prevention and reduction of statelessness,” Manly added.
The UNHCR official further commended Rwanda for becoming party to both the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness by acceding to both treaties in 2006.
Manly urged Rwanda to encourage other African states to join the UN statelessness conventions, as well as other African treaties – such as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which precludes the statelessness situation.