Rwanda: How Has Rwanda Handled Refugees' Welfare?

11 September 2019
analysis

Rwanda yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the African Union to set up a transit mechanism for evacuating refugees and asylum seekers out of Libya.

It is under this agreement that Rwanda expects to host the first group of 500 refugees, according to a statement released Tuesday.

Addressing journalists on Tuesday, the Minister for Emergency Management, Germaine Kamayirese, said: "Rwanda's doors have always been open to Africans in need. We have hosted refugees and we will continue to."

She added that the Government had been closely working with different partners like UNHCR to ensure the comfort and safety of refugees.

"The Government works with partners to ensure refugees access education, water, electricity and social amenities, among others, aimed at improving their wellbeing," she noted.

This was reaffirmed by the country representative of UNHCR in Rwanda, Ahmed Baba Fall, who said, the agency has a good partnership with Rwanda over the years in addressing refugees'.

"We will continue to build that partnership in the interest of refugees and we hope that this can be a model to be replicated by other countries," he said.

There are over 149,000 refugees in six refugees camps in different sites across the country.

As Rwanda prepares to host African refugees from Libya, The New Times takes a look at the current situation of the refugees' socio-economic welfare in Rwanda.

Education

The furure of Rwanda's education sector looks bright after the Government implemented the nine-year and twelve-year basic education to ensure universal access to education.

The policy is now also open to refugees to ensure that no one is left behind.

Though schools have been availed in refugee camps, the Government has integrated refugees in the system as young refugees join Rwandan public primary and secondary schools while the ECD education is also available at each of the refugee camps across the country.

Refugees also have access to scholarships to study in the University as UNHCR has built partnerships with different universities in Rwanda, like Kepler among others, to make sure they don't miss a chance to continue their studies.

Healthcare facilitation

Just last month, the Ministry of Emergency Management (MINEMA) announced that, beginning September this year, refugees who don't live in camps will get access to health insurance coverage.

The development follows a Memorandum of Understanding signed in June between the ministry, Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Besides 5,138 refugees who are already accessing healthcare services under the health insurance scheme, Jean Claude Twishime, Public Relations and Communications Officer at MINEMA, told The New Times on Tuesday that the distribution activity of health insurance IDs to more refugees kicks off today in Gasabo District.

The move, he said, was in line with the implementation of the 2015 commitments that Rwanda made including providing refugees with IDs and passports, supporting them with development projects, as well as integrating them in the national health insurance scheme.

The project will benefit 12,045 urban refugees as well as 1,780 student refugees staying in boarding schools and universities.

UNHCR will be contributing Rwf7,000 for each refugee to be enrolled in the Community Health Insurance Scheme (Mutuelle de Santé). Over Rwf96 million has been allocated for the purpose this year.

Such refugees are considered as a special group because they are not considered in Ubudehe, Rwanda's social stratification of citizens depending on their economic status, as their economic profiles are not documented in the country.

Financial inclusion

Refugees can now have access to financial services such as bank accounts, mobile wallets, consumer loans and savings scheme, among others, after financial institutions and telecommunication firms started to take their products and services to refugee camps.

The move came after the Ministry of Emergency Management and UNHCR, as part of the strategy to promote self-reliance among refugees and boosting financial inclusion among vulnerable communities.

With the new initiative, government and UNHCR hope that refugees and neighbouring communities will reach their productive potential.

It also comes at a time the UN body is shifting its approach to giving refugees cash as opposed to donating food and non-food items.

In addition, refugees have been using Mobile Money services to receive cash after telecom companies were encouraged to scale up their services in refugee camps.

Prior to its launch earlier this year, the initiative sought to graduate some 18,000 camp-based refugees from food and/or cash for food assistance programmes and providing access to formal employment opportunities for up to 60,000 refugees.

Since then, UNHCR has always opened doors to financial institutions like Equity Bank, Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR), and Savings and Credit Cooperative whereby loan officers visit the camps to carry out financial and non-financial assessment of the businesses in order to determine their creditworthiness.

Refugees are also given a chance to showcase and grow their talent.

Besides young refugees who have been able to show their talent in fashion at different fashion shows, a group of drummers known as Himbaza Club made up of Burundian refugees taking part in the ongoing East Africa's Got Talent in Nairobi, Kenya, have proved that there is plenty of talent in the refugee camps.

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