23 February 2014

Rwanda's Refugee Policies Should Be Emulated

The Senate has just passed a bill that will streamline the issue of asylum seekers in the country. An important aspect of the law is that a special committee will be set up to determine eligibility.

Refugees in Rwanda benefit from all social services enjoyed by nationals, without discrimination; be it education and access to health that many refugee host counties cannot match. Deprivation is not part of the national vocabulary, be they refugees or not.

Rwandans, of all people, understand the real meaning of being a refugee since a large portion of its population experienced it; the frustrations of trying to fit into a host country, humiliation of being stateless and the unending hurdles that a refugee has to navigate through.

Refugees in many countries have to undergo a gruelling waiting period to know whether and when their applications will go through, but that issue has been addressed for those seeking asylum in Rwanda.

A specific timeframe for scrutinizing and informing the applicants has been set, as well the appeal procedures in case their initial applications are found wanting.

All these mechanisms were put in place based on firsthand experience of what a refugee needs; sanctuary and a feeling of welcome. That can only be achieved if the host country welcomes them with open arms and treats them as its own citizens.

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