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2015 UNHCR country operations profile - Rwanda

| Overview |

Working environment

UNHCR 2015 Rwanda country operations map

  • The Central Africa and Great Lakes subregion is fraught with multiple conflicts and political instability. In addition to the crisis in the Central African Republic which has affected many countries in the subregion, the precarious security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has also seen large-scale refugee movements into Rwanda and other neighbouring countries.

  • Rwanda has been hosting refugees, mainly from the DRC, but also from other African countries, for decades. The majority of the refugees are hosted in five camps - Gihembe, Kigeme, Kiziba, Mugombwa and Nyabiheke. In 2015, UNHCR will continue providing protection and assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers.

  • Over the past few years, thousands of refugees have returned to Rwanda and another 10,000 are expected to do so in 2015. UNHCR is active in a joint Government and One UN return and reintegration programme for Rwandan returnees, which provides a platform for all stakeholders to coordinate their activities.

  • With a country target of 10,000 resettled refugees, Rwanda is part of UNHCR's regional comprehensive solutions strategy for Congolese refugees in the Great Lakes region.

  • The Rwandan Government makes land available for refugee camps and facilitates access for refugees to public services, particularly the educational system. To ensure that refugee students are enrolled in upper secondary education, UNHCR will support the construction of additional schools for some 4,800 students.

People of concern

In 2015, UNHCR's Rwanda operation will support: some 50,000 refugees who fled the DRC in the mid-1990s, and over 30,000 new arrivals from eastern DRC since April 2012 escaping from armed clashes between government forces and non-state groups; and returnees who have come back since 2002, mainly from the DRC.

UNHCR 2015 planning figures for Rwanda
Type of population Origin January 2015 December 2015
Total in country Of whom assisted
Total in country Of whom assisted
Total 97,340 97,340 105,340 105,340
Refugees Burundi 340 340 340 340
Chad 10 10 10 10
Dem. Rep. of the Congo 84,640 84,640 94,640 94,640
Various 20 20 20 20
Asylum-seekers Burundi 30 30 30 30
Dem. Rep. of the Congo 180 180 180 180
Returnee arrivals during year (ex-refugees) Rwanda 12,000 12,000 10,000 10,000
Others of concern Burundi 10 10 10 10
Dem. Rep. of the Congo 90 90 90 90
Rwanda 30 30 30 30

| Response |

Needs and strategies

In 2015, issuing birth certificates to all newborns will remain a priority as currently there is a backlog of 18,000 birth certificates. Refugees aged 16 years and over will require ID cards. Machine-readable Convention Travel Documents will also be issued to refugees starting from 2015.

In Rwanda, 12 years of free education for children is mandatory. A UNHCR agreement with the Government allows refugee children to enrol in the national educational system. In 2015, additional classrooms will increase the absorption capacity of local schools.

Meanwhile, problems caused by soil erosion in Gihembe camp remain a concern as there have been several tragic accidents. In all camps, soil erosion and landslides during the rainy season are a major challenge. Costly structural modifications, such as the construction of drainage systems and terracing, and the planting of trees, need to be implemented. An estimated USD 1.5 million is required to address the situation.

Regarding water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, pit latrines need to be replaced with dischargeable latrines by the end of 2015. Between 2012 and 2014, 90 latrines were constructed and 440 more are needed.

UNHCR will advocate for refugees to be enrolled into the Rwandan public health system. Local health structures need to be equipped to absorb this extra demand.

In the camps, people receive an average of just 12 litres of water per day, as the landscape and infrastructure of Gihembe and Mugombwa camps require water to be deviated from sources located approximately 15 and 28 kilometres away, respectively.

| Implementation |


In 2015, UNHCR will continue its close collaboration with the Government of Rwanda and UN agencies, under the framework of the Delivering as One initiative.

UNHCR will also contribute to the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region, providing continuous support to the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and other participating institutions and organizations.

In order to ensure the protection of people of concern in Rwanda and the delivery of adequate services, UNHCR will rely on its partnerships with government institutions, particularly the Ministry for Disaster Management and Refugees (MIDIMAR) and partners delivering services to refugees.

2015 UNHCR partners in Rwanda
Implementing partners
Government agencies: Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs
NGOs: Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Africa Humanitarian Action, American Refugee Committee, Parlement des Jeunes Rwandais, Plan International, World Vision
Operational partners

| Financial information |

Following the steady influx of refugees from the DRC,the financial requirements of the Rwanda operation have gradually increased from USD 22.6 million in 2010 to USD 52 million in 2014. This took into consideration the initial costs for developing the newly-created camp of Mugombwa. Fewer refugee arrivals in 2014 have led to setting the 2015 budget at USD 43.2 million.

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2015 Update



Statistical Snapshot*
* As at June 2015
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained. In the absence of Government figures, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in many industrialized countries based on 10 years of individual asylum-seeker recognition.
  3. Persons whose applications for asylum or refugee status are pending as at 30 June 2015 at any stage in the asylum procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015. Source: country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and assistance. It also includes people in IDP-like situations. This category is descriptive in nature and includes groups of persons who are inside their country of nationality or habitual residence and who face protection risks similar to those of IDPs but who, for practical or other reasons, could not be reported as such.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015.
  7. Refers to persons who are not considered as nationals by any State under the operation of its law. This category refers to persons who fall under the agency's statelessness mandate because they are stateless according to this international definition, but data from some countries may also include persons with undetermined nationality.
  8. Refers to individuals who do not necessarily fall directly into any of the other groups but to whom UNHCR may extend its protection and/or assistance services. These activities might be based on humanitarian or other special grounds.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Rwanda [1]
Refugees [2] 132,743
Asylum Seekers [3] 253
Returned Refugees [4] 2,196
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 0
Various [8] 361
Total Population of Concern 135,553
Originating from Rwanda [1]
Refugees [2]
More info 76,898
The number of Rwandan refugees in the DRC is subject to change based on a registration exercise carried out in 2014 that resulted in a figure of 243,000 identified Rwandans, as well as a biometric registration exercise.
Asylum Seekers [3] 10,541
Returned Refugees [4] 2,196
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 5,292
Total Population of Concern 94,927
Government Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2000
2014 0
2013 0
2012 0
2011 0
2010 0
2009 0
2008 0
2007 0
2006 0
2005 0
2004 0
2003 0
2002 0
2001 0
2000 11,849

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Kigeme: A home carved from the hills for Congolese refugees

The Kigeme refugee camp in Rwanda's Southern province was reopened in June 2012 after thousands of Congolese civilians started fleeing across the border when fighting erupted in late April between Democratic Republic of the Congo government forces and fighters of the rebel M23 movement. Built on terraced hills, it currently houses more than 14,000 refugees but was not significantly affected by the latest fighting in eastern Congo, which saw the M23 capture the North Kivu provincial capital, Goma, before withdrawing. While many of the adults long for lasting peace in their home region, the younger refugees are determined to resume their education. Hundreds enrolled in special classes to help them prepare for the Rwandan curriculum in local primary and secondary schools, including learning different languages. In a camp where more than 60 per cent of the population are aged under 18 years, the catch-up classes help traumatized children to move forward, learn and make friends.

Kigeme: A home carved from the hills for Congolese refugees

Keeping Busy in Rwanda's Kiziba Camp

Rwanda's Kiziba Camp was opened in December 1996, after the start of civil war in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The facility was constructed to help cope with the influx of tens of thousands of Congolese refugees at that time. Some of the refugees have since returned to their homes in eastern DRC, but about 16,000 remain at the remote hilltop camp located in the Western province of Rwanda. Fresh violence last year in DRC's North Kivu province did not affect the camp because new arrivals were accommodated in the reopened Kigeme Camp in Rwanda's Southern province. Most of the refugees in Kiziba have said they do not want to return, but the prospects of local integration is limited by factors such as a lack of land and limited access to employment. In the meantime, people try to lead as normal a life as possible, learning new skills and running small businesses to help them become self-sufficient. For the youth, access to sports and education is very important to ensure that they do not become sidetracked by negative influences as well as to keep up their spirits and hopes for the future.

Keeping Busy in Rwanda's Kiziba Camp

Congolese Refugees flee to Rwanda

In the first ten days of May 2012, more than 6,500 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo crossed into Rwanda, fleeing fighting between the Congolese army and renegade soldiers. UNHCR and its UN partners worked with the Rwandan government to provide the refugees with humanitarian assistance in the early stages of the crisis, and to find solutions until it is safe for them to return.

Some of the refugees walked for days before reaching the Goma-Gisenyi border crossing between Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. They came with their belongings, including mattresses, clothing, perhaps a few toys for the children. The images are from the border and from the Nkamira Transit Centre, located 22 kilometres inside Rwanda. Accommodation at Nkamira is poor: the centre can only host up to 5,400 individuals. It is only temporary shelter, but numbers continue to swell as hundreds cross the border every day.

Congolese Refugees flee to Rwanda

The suffering and strength of displaced Congolese women

During the ceaseless cycle of violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is the vulnerable who suffer the most, especially women and children. The issue of widespread sexual and gender-based violence is a major concern for UNHCR, but it never goes away. The refugee agency has received dozens of reports of rape and assault of women during the latest wave of fighting between government forces and rebel troops as well as militia groups in North and South Kivu provinces. It is an area where rape is used as a weapon of war.

The fear of sexual and physical violence forces thousands of women to seek refuge away from their homes or across the border in countries such as Rwanda and Uganda. Often their menfolk remain behind and women become the heads of household, looking after young children. They are the bedrock of society, yet they are often the first to suffer when instability comes to their home areas.

The following images were taken recently in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda by Frédèric Noy. They depict Congolese women who have fled their homes, leaving almost everything behind, and sought shelter in a place they hope will be better than where they came from. In many ways they have become inured to hardship, but so many of them continue to retain hope for themselves and their children. And that is an inspiration to those who help them.

The suffering and strength of displaced Congolese women

Rwanda: Flight from BurundiPlay video

Rwanda: Flight from Burundi

In recent weeks, the number of Burundian refugees crossing into Rwanda has increased significantly. According to the Government of Rwanda, since the beginning of April, 25,004 Burundians, mostly women and children, have fled to Rwanda. Many said they had experienced intimidation and threats of violence linked to the upcoming elections.