18 June 2017

Rwanda Has 'Special' Reasons to Play Good Host to Refugees - Minister Mukantabana

Rwanda has more than enough lessons to ensure refugees are not only hosted but also helps them transform their lives, Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) Seraphine Mukantabana said this as the country prepares to join the world in marking the World Refugee Day this week.

Mukantabana told The Sunday Times that, Rwanda has committed to welcoming refugees since the signing of the International Convention Related to Refugees Status to play good hosts to whoever is seeking refuge.

"In our style of leadership, we will never commit to what we can't do. We committed ourselves to international obligations to receive and protect refugees fleeing other countries and we will ensure that we put that into practice," Mukantabana said.

"But on a special case, which I consider to be sort of an advantage to refugees who come to Rwanda, this is a country where almost everyone has been a refugee at a point in time in their lives and have tested the difficult times of being refugees because of our political history. But now that we are a stable nation, we can't ignore those in need.

That's why our government goes an extra mile to ensure that refugees have almost everything they need for their day-to-day wellbeing," she added.

Mukantabana's comments come as relief to more than 160,000 refugees currently residing in Rwanda, at a moment when several countries - especially in the west - seem to have turned their backs to those seeking refuge.

Her comments, also resonates with this year's theme to commemorate the World Refugee Day; "Let us celebrate as we work towards self-sustainability".

The UN General Assembly adopted the World Refugee Day in resolution 55/76 on 4 December 2000. 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Related to Refugees Status. This is an occasion to express solidarity with thousands of refugees worldwide and recall common humanity, celebrate tolerance and diversity.

Usually, such an event serves as a prime time for host governments and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to convey messages to the world about refugees and why they need protection and assistance.

With refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi with a little number of refugees from other countries, Mukantabana says it is a testament that Rwanda has done all it can to ensure a well-organized emergency response, and to show empathy towards the refugees that have lived in the country for about 20 years.

"On this day to mark the World Refugee Day 2017, we will be reflecting back on twenty years of hosting refugees, to discuss the problematic related to refugees and peace and rethinking about durable solutions for refugees, such as giving them education, universal health insurance, food and many other basics," She said.

The celebrations are expected to be held at Kiziba Camp, Karongi District in the Western Province, where 60 classrooms and a sports facility will be officially inaugurated, according to Mukantabana.

She noted that the government, together with several partners would ensure that refugees in camps acquire vocational skills partly as a solution to creating jobs for themselves.

Mukantabana added that the government is in a process of updating the refugee databank, as this would lead to the issuance of Identity cards, health insurance "plus any other documents that refugees need."

World Refugee Day calendar

On June 19, a breakfast discussions of small loan facilitation modalities for local non-profit organizations that will be working in camps on livelihood program and how to facilitate refugees who may wish to do small businesses.

On June 20, Urban Refugee celebration will take place at the Red Cross premises while the official International Refugee Day celebrations will take place in Kiziba Camp, on the same day.

On Tuesday evening, there will be a cultural evening with refugees' cultural songs and dance. There also will be a display of some of the Made-in-Camps products.

Sunday Times understands that there will be a young refugee lady from Syria who has composed a song for refugee children in Rwanda, there will also be an Indian celebrity who will be participating, and has composed "a Song for Rwanda " that will be officially released during the function.

Humanitarian actors worldwide commemorate World Refugee Day throughout the week of June 20 to raise maximum awareness.

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