Registration & Refugee Status Determination

Registration is one of the most fundamental ways that UNHCR protects refugees, by ensuring that their identity is known and documented. This enables humanitarian agencies providing services to refugees and asylum seekers to know how many people need help, and in turn allows refugees and asylum seekers to access services. Registration is also crucial for identifying those individuals who are in vulnerable situation.

In Rwanda, the Government and its relevant Ministries are responsible for civil registration and issuing identification cards to all refugees aged 16 and above as part of their inclusion in national systems. Through its legal partners, UNHCR supports the issuance of birth registration for new-born babies in the camps. Periodically, campaigns are undertaken by partners to ensure that refugees have up to date documentation. Jointly UNHCR and the Government counterpart MINEMA, complements this process by also capturing refugee biometric data, photos, and fingerprints within proGres database.

The vast majority of Congolese and Burundian refugees currently living in Rwanda were previously registered on a prima facie basis. All newly arrived asylum seekers, regardless of country of origin, now present their asylum claims and go through the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process carried out by the Government of Rwanda. UNHCR continues to work with the government to address the current gaps and improve the protection space for asylum seekers. UNHCR and its legal partners provide legal counseling and support to asylum seekers on their asylum process as needed.

Child Protection and Gender Based Violence (GBV) Prevention

In Rwanda, women and children make up 75% of the refugee population, and like refugee men and boys, they are at risk of incidences of violence such as physical aggression, domestic violence, rape, child abuse, neglect, and survival sex. Many cases go unreported due to social and cultural norms, limited knowledge on child rights, and a lack of awareness on available supportive services.

To respond to these issues, UNHCR in Rwanda works with partner organizations to prevent incidents of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) as well as child abuse, neglect, exploitation. Together, we provide individual case management and services such as pro bono legal assistance, psychosocial counselling and referrals to health care if needed. Since 2015, UNHCR, the Government of Rwanda and the One UN have established One Stop Centers for holistic support to SGBV survivors in each district of Rwanda.

In addition, UNHCR works with partners to identify unaccompanied and separated children and refugees with specific needs, in an effort to provide them with basic material support, advocate for their needs, and intervene with referrals or service provision when necessary.

UNHCR has also entered into an agreement with Rwanda National Police for the establishment and/or reconstruction of police posts outside each refugee camp and the agreement to develop a training curriculum for the police. So far, police posts in Gashora, Mahama, Rwakuba, Muyira, Mugombwa, and other relevant sectors have been established or reconstructed.

Community-based support networks

Strengthening community-based support networks is an important part of UNHCR’s work across refugee camps and in urban areas. Across the five refugee camps, UNHCR and partners have set up refugee leadership and representation committees and continue to train community mobilizers to provide a structure for the community to voice their concerns and identify challenges.

In Rwanda, around 10% of refugees live in urban areas (11.880) . Unlike those in the camps, urban refugees receive minimal assistance and are generally more self-reliant. In order to provide various services to the urban refugee and asylum seeker population, UNHCR and partners run a Community Center in Gikondo, one of the areas with a concentrated refugee population in Kigali. Key protection services for urban refugee and asylum seeker population at such community centers include the provision of legal assistance, registration and documentation, assistance to people with specific needs and child protection. The community center is also a center for urban community engagement and skills training and cultural activities and is accessible to the Rwandan host community.

UNHCR further works with local partners, including Prison Fellowship Rwanda and Legal Aid Foundation to provide legal assistance and community-based socio-therapy.

In urban area, where recognized refugees have access to employment, exceptional financial assistance is provided for extremely vulnerable cases including newly arrived asylum seekers. UNHCR also encourage community-based supports through community structures for individuals who cannot be supported financially by UNHCR or its partners.