The government and United Nations agencies in Rwanda under their umbrella, (ONE UN), yesterday, pledged to work together in facilitating voluntary repatriation and resettlement of Rwandan refugees.
At least 70,000 Rwandans are expected to return before the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, invokes the Cessation Clause on Rwandan refugees next June.
By implication, the cessation clause, upon coming in force, all Rwandan refugees in various countries will lose their status.
In the joint declaration yesterday, in Kigali, the parties announced the establishment of sustainable return and reintegration of the refugees, initiative.
"The returnees are among other special groups that need opportunities and programmes that facilitate them to catch up with the country's development pace after a life in exile," said the Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, Marcel Gatsinzi.
He said the programme is a result of the recognition of the challenges that returnees face.
"The idea of developing this programme dates back to 2009 when the UNHCR chief visited Rwanda, and recognised that despite all efforts made by the government, the needs of the returnees were still not fully being addressed, and there was need for the development of a robust standalone reintegration programme to complement those efforts," he said.
The programme aims at supporting returnees in all relevant aspects; access to land, justice, health services, education and appropriate housing facilities, as well as agricultural and livelihood support where appropriate.
In addition, special focus will be directed towards issues related to peace-building, advocacy for reproductive health, HIV and AIDS treatment, gender equality, as well as women's and children's rights.
The UN Resident Coordinator, Lamin Mamadou Manneh, said he has witnessed progress being made in the area of reintegration.
"The reintegration of Rwandans who have been living in exile for many years is a noble initiative and on behalf of the UN family, I commend the efforts by the government in championing the process so diligently and proactively,"
"Many Rwandans are voluntarily returning home to a peaceful, secure and determined country."
Gatsinzi said that through other ministries, the returnees, will get basic needs and receive hands on skills like carpentry, construction and tailoring.
Manneh gave assurances that the funds will be available by 2013.
The Democratic Republic of Congo hosts most of the Rwandan refugees with 52,100, followed by Uganda with 12,772, Congo Brazzaville with 8,360 and Zambia with 5,547.
Over three million returnees have already been reintegrated.