UNHCR and Rwanda Government agree on enhancing refugee protection and livelihoods in high-level meeting

The High-Level Consultative Meeting was held in Kigali on 26 October 2016.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Government of Rwanda agreed on enhancing refugee protection and improved livelihoods, as well as to continue to preserve and reinforce the humanitarian and civil character of asylum in Rwanda, in a High-Level Consultative Meeting between the Government of Rwanda and the UN Refugee Agency held in Kigali on 26 October 2016.

The UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Volker Türk, said that refugee situations are becoming increasingly more protracted and host countries and communities are in need of support, but also innovative approaches that achieve solutions.

“The New York Declaration for Refuges and Migrants includes new elements, such as the Comprehensive Refugee Framework, which UNHCR has been tasked with developing over the coming year. The framework will help put in place comprehensive responses to large-scale refugee influxes, as well as protracted situations, ensuring greater predictability, international solidarity with and support for hosting countries,” said Assistant High Commissioner Türk.

Noting that Rwanda currently hosts close to 165,000 refugees from neighboring DRC and Burundi, the Government of Rwanda and UNHCR agreed that granting refugee status is a fundamental humanitarian and non-political act to be preserved and reinforced, along with the humanitarian and civilian character of asylum.

Hon. Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR), Ms. Seraphine Mukantabana, expressed gratitude to UNHCR and others partners for supporting humanitarian activities in Rwanda and expressed the Government of Rwanda’s wish for continued good collaboration with UNHCR especially in bringing the Comprehensive Solution Strategy for Rwanda to a close by December 2017.

“The protection of refugees is not only a duty, but a moral responsibility for Rwanda. With thanks to UNHCR and other partners, since 2009, Rwanda has worked to bring closure to the protracted Rwandan refugee situation, and since then several hundred thousand Rwandans have returned, been supported and are now settling peacefully among Rwandans,” she said.

During the high-level meeting, the Government of Rwanda and UNHCR decided to establish a joint task force which will outline a multi-year strategy to support inclusion of refugees in Rwanda’s long-term development, building on the commitments made by Rwanda at the Obama Leaders’ Summit on 20 September 2016 in which the Government committed to including refugees in national systems for education, health, livelihoods and documentation.

Specifically, the Government committed to extend to urban refugees access to enroll in the national health system (mutuelle de santé); integrate refugees into the national school system by end 2018;  to ensure access to ID cards for all refugees above 16 years by end 2017; and to implement the joint Government-UNHCR strategy for refugees’ socio-economic inclusion and livelihoods.

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Rwanda – Kigali: UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Volker Türk and Hon. Seraphine Mukantabana, Minister in Charge of Refugees and Disaster Management during High-Level Consultative Meeting. ©UNHCR Rwanda

In closing, Mr. Türk, expressed thanks to the Government of Rwanda for their generosity in hosting refugees on its territory, some for more than 20 years, and others who have arrived more recently.

“During the visit to Mahama refugee camp, I was able to meet and speak with Burundian refugees, particularly women and unaccompanied minors. Many of the refugees are still deeply disturbed by their experience of flight, and they are extremely grateful to the Rwandan Government for the generous provision of shelter, safety and protection,” he said.

The high level meeting was also attended by Her Royal Highness, Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan, an advocate for humanitarian activities and Special Advisor on Gender to UNHCR, who also spoke at the opening of the meeting; Dr. Saber Azam, UNHCR Representative in Rwanda, and other officials from UNHCR’s Headquarters and Rwanda offices.

In attendance from the Government of Rwanda: Minister of Justice and Attorney General Hon. Johnston Busingye; Minister of Cabinet Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister, Hon. Stella Ford Mugabo; Minister of State in Charge of Public Health and Primary Health Care in MINISANTE, Hon. Dr. Patrick Ndimubanzi; and others.

Contacts

In Kigali: Martina Pomeroy, External Relations Officer, [email protected] ; +250 788 302 769

                  Eugene Sibomana, PI/Communication Associate, [email protected]; +250 788 884 713       

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Rwanda – Kigali: Participants pose for a group photo after the High-Level Consultative Meeting between the Government of Rwanda and the UN Refugee Agency held in on 26 October 2016. ©UNCHR Rwanda

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Rwanda – Kigali: The UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Volker Türk, talking to media after the High-Level Consultative Meeting between the Government of Rwanda and UNHCR. /Photo: ©UNHCR Rwanda