24 July 2012

Rwanda: 'Ghost Refugees' At Nkamira Camp

An ongoing verification exercise of refugees who have fled to Rwanda from the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, has unearthed over 6,000 'ghost refugees.'

The refugees have been entering the country in large numbers since April this year, following a mutiny by a group of soldiers within the DRC army.

According to officials from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDMAR), the exercise found that 6,821 refugees could not be physically identified despite being initially registered.

"We think some refugees might have been registering themselves several times under different names to benefit from the support they get once in the camp," said Fredric Ntawukuriryayo, the Public Relations Officer at the ministry.

"When we started the verification exercise using the fingerprint technology, it was difficult for anyone to lie on their identity as the machine would uncover the fraudulent individuals".

As a result, statistics of received Congolese refugees since April fell from 19171 refugees to 14350.

According to Ntawukuriryayo, the influx of refugees arriving in the country stands at an average 20 refugees per day.

Of the refugees who had initially been received at Nkamira Transit Camp in Rubavu District, the biggest number has since been relocated to Kigeme Camp in Nyamagabe district, Southern Province.

The Kigeme Camp has been declared full to capacity.

Currently, the camp hosts 11,424 refugees grouped into 3,102 families and, according to Ntawukuriryayo, the refugees remaining at the transit camp will be transferred to Nyabiheke Camp in the Eastern Province.

"We have free space in Nyabiheke Camp with a capacity of over 3000 people. This is our new destination," he said.

Statistics from MIDIMAR indicate that about 2,866 refugees are still hosted at Nkamira camp awaiting relocation.

Another 512 have returned to their country, while 166 were transferred to Gihembe, Kiziba and Nyabiheke camps.

Their relocation to Kigeme started mid-May to decongest the transit centre which was over-stretched by the growing number of refugees fleeing from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Spreading across 20 hectares, Kigeme Camp is made of white plastic UNHCR-marked makeshift tents which were erected to shelter the refugees.

The manager of Kigeme Refugee Camp, Emmanuel Niyibaho, told this paper the last bunch of refugees was received at the camp last Saturday.

"They all have shelter, food and other basic necessities." Niyibaho said, adding that they also have access to basic infrastructure, like water, toilets and health facilities.

"The Ministry [MIDIMAR] is working hard to support them in their daily life. They are working closely with humanitarian bodies to make sure the refugees get enough support."

On Monday and Tuesday, the refugees hosted at Kigeme camp received an assortment of equipment including clothes, shoes and home materials, courtesy of World Vision.

And according to Niyibaho, last week two local churches, Zion Temple and Restoration Church, distributed clothes in the camp.

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