UNHCR calls for further sensitisation of Rwandan refugees

The UNHCR has called on all stakeholders to support the drive that aims to provide necessary information about the current situation in the country to promote voluntary repatriation of Rwandan refugees.
Serafina Mukantabana (left) receives a  warm welcome from a  relative upon her arrival at Kigali International Airport, from Zambia, last year. The New Times / File
Serafina Mukantabana (left) receives a warm welcome from a relative upon her arrival at Kigali International Airport, from Zambia, last year. The New Times / File

The UNHCR has called on all stakeholders to support the drive that aims to provide necessary information about the current situation in the country to promote voluntary repatriation of Rwandan refugees.

The call was made by Cristina Planas, Deputy Country Representative of UNHCR, in an information session held at agency’s office in Kigali.

However, Planas noted that tremendous efforts have been made to provide information to the refugees to increase dialogue with refugee communities to combat misinformation and establish confidence-building mechanisms.

UNHCR recently recommended the invocation of cessation clause that comes into effect by June 30, 2013 for refugees who fled between 1959 and December 31st 1998.

It recommended the increase of the returnee monitoring capacity in Rwanda and to relay relevant information on the conditions of return to refugees.

“Refugees need to know the alternatives that are available, such as local integration in the host country.

“There are many questions refugees are asking themselves; will I be able to recover my land? Will I get assistance? What about my children? Will they go to school? Will I be able to access medical care? We need to provide information that answer these questions,” she alluded.

Asked why the coming into force of the clause was extended to next year, Planas pointed out that during the recent conference in Geneva, host countries requested for the flexibility in the implementation process to prepare for the complex exemption exercise to identify refugees in need of international protection and to implement local integration procedures.

Jean Claude Rwahama, the director in charge of refugee affairs at the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, confirmed that the ministry and other stakeholders are ready to continue extending information to Rwandan refugees in the countries of residence.

“It’s true, since the implementation of cessation clause was extended, we shall continue providing information to the refugees. We are working with our embassies in various countries and other stakeholders to ensure refugees obtain adequate information concerning the situation in their country,” he said.

Speaking at a news conference earlier this month following the announcement on the cessation clause, the Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, Marcel Gatsinzi, said that the country’s Constitution guarantees the right to citizenship.

“The government is wholeheartedly committed to the return of all refugees. We believe it is the right of every Rwandan to enjoy the benefits of living in their own country, to be close to their relatives and to contribute to the development of their country.

“We will do all we can to ensure that they make their choice based on accurate information, free of fear and in the knowledge that they will be welcomed and supported when they return home,” Gatsinzi stated.

Various initiatives were established for the refugees to ascertain the true situation in the country, including “Come and See” and “Go and Tell” visits, where delegations of refugee representatives are invited to tour the country and go back and pass on the findings to their colleagues in various countries.

eric.kabeera@newtimes.co.rw 

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