Rwandan refugees in various countries were Monday called on to voluntarily repatriate amid concerns of the looming deadline for the implementation of the cessation clause.
Rwanda estimates that about 280,000 Rwandans could be still living as refugees across 20 countries in the world with the biggest number of them, close to 245,000, living in the DR Congo.
Speaking at a meeting in Kigali, the UNHCR Representative in Rwanda, Azam Saber, said “We would like to encourage more Rwandan refugees living abroad to return home because Rwanda is safe and because the Government of Rwanda is welcoming them.”
The tripartite meeting attracted officials from Rwanda, Congo Brazzaville and the United Nations’ Agency for refugee affairs (UNHCR).
It discussed a roadmap agreed upon by the parties on joint sensitization campaign on voluntary repatriation and local integration of refugees in the host country.
There are about 10,000 Rwandan refugees in Congo Brazzaville, according to Rwandan officials.
Saber, noted that nearly 5,600 Rwandan refugees in Congo Brazzaville were born in exile, of which over 4,000 are going to school and university, illustrating a relatively young age of the refugee population in that country.
Seraphine Mukantabana, Rwanda’s Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, called on the refugees to consider voluntary repatriation before December 31, 2017.
The sensitization campaigns targets refugees who fled the east African country between 1959 and 1998.
The minister reiterated that upon arrival in Rwanda, the returnees will get a sum of 250 U.S. dollars per an adult person to support their resettlement, while children are entitled to 150 U.S. dollars.
The money is given through UNHCR.
Rwanda has already prepared Nyarushishi camp in Rusizi district to receive the returnees, she said.
Antoinette Dinga-Dzondo, Congo Brazzaville Minister of Social Affairs, Humanitarian Action and Solidarity said each Rwandan refugee has option to choose among solutions and no one would be forced to return.
“Once one has chosen a given option we examine whether he meets the criteria for them to opt for the voluntary repatriation, or reintegration to retain refugee status,” she said.
Several avenues were employed in the awareness campaign through churches, civil society, and youth forums, according to the officials.
By December 31, 2017, any Rwandan who won’t be home will not be considered as a refugee.