A newly proposed law on immigration and emigration in Rwanda would make it easier for people in border communities to cross borders without difficulty, Members of Parliament in the Lower House heard yesterday.
The MPs on Thursday approved the basis of a draft law that seeks to amend the current law on immigration and emigration matters, which has to be reviewed to incorporate penalties on immigration and emigration related offences among other changes.
While presenting the draft law in Parliament yesterday, the Minister in the Office of the President, Judith Uwizeye, said that provisions have been added in the draft law to make it easy for people living in border communities to travel to neighbouring countries.
Under Article 57 of the draft law, the government has proposed that the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration be allowed to work in consultation with local leaders and other relevant authorities to establish more crossing points to strictly facilitate movements of border communities.
The draft law directs the directorate to put in place instructions governing the management of the crossing points.
"It's important that we make it easy for Rwandans to travel to neighbouring countries, especially those who live near the borders. Some of them would travel long distances to reach a gazetted border post," Uwizeye told MPs.
Immigration officials told The New Times that the move aims to close a gap in the law whereby people in some border communities were not explicitly allowed by the law to cross the nearby borders without using designated border posts.
Once it has come into force, the new law will recognise other crossing points other than gazetted borders to ease the movement of border communities.
Many legislators welcomed the move but suggested that the government should devise mechanisms at the proposed crossing points to ensure that they aren't abused.
"Increasing border posts is a good thing but it should go hand in hand with increasing security equipment such as search equipment for travellers," said MP Athanasie Nyiragwaneza.
Minister Uwizeye said that control mechanisms will be put in place as different crossing points are opened and she agreed with the lawmaker that some equipment should be procured for use by border posts.
"Yes, we will increase equipment. You also know that Rwanda has opened its borders to foreigners and that's why we will increase control mechanisms at our borders," she said.
Apart from easing travel for people in border communities, the draft law also seeks to institute new types of travel documents, redefine what migration crimes are, and provide penalties for such crimes.
Officials said in an explanatory note to the immigration draft law that the opportunity to modify the existing legal framework has come at a time when the law needed to be reviewed to bring on board various changes that occurred in the country in the area of Immigration and Emigration.
They said that the proposed review of Law n° 04/2011 of 21/03/2011 on Immigration and Emigration in Rwanda serves to facilitate the mobility of Rwandans and foreigners in the country by easing entry and exit procedures, but with necessary safeguards to ensure that Rwanda's openness is not abused by criminals.