Rwandan refugees in the Republic of Congo are a worried lot. They had up to December 31 last year to either secure legal residency, return home or risk losing protection after the cessation date.
They fled their country following the 1994 genocide that left almost one million people killed.
Since the end of their refugee status, they say they are continuously harassed by security forces who threaten them with expulsion.
Returning home is not an option for them, as they say their security will not be guaranteed.
“Since we left our country, nothing has changed. There’s always insecurity. We categorically refuse to take the Rwandan passport and any other document issued by the Kigali government. So we think that it is a trap of the Rwandan government in complicity with the UNHCR to repatriate US involuntarily. We refuse any documents issued by Kigali. We are refugees,» said Médiatrice Moukamanzi, a Rwandan refugee in the country.
“We no longer live as before; We’re being harassed. I am one of the 8,460 people who have not been exempted. But we don’t live the way we used to. Several times we are arrested by the police on the pretext that we are in an irregular situation. I was once arrested by the police who asked me to take either the Rwandan passport to stay here in Congo, or to return to Rwanda,» said Ignace Ngirabatware.
While a majority of them have lost their status and become illegal persons, according to the Congolese government, at least 804 of them have been exempted from the cessation of status until 2020.
Human rights activists are however opposed to their expulsion.
“The UNHCR has worked with the Congolese and Rwandan authorities for the completion of this exercise and are always available as a humanitarian organisation. To help the ex refugees from Rwanda who wish either to return home or to be locally integrated. The UNHCR is always available to offer its support to the Rwandan refugees,” said Mohamed Ag Assory, the communications officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Congo.
The cessation clause for Rwandan refugees was declared by the (UNHCR) on June 30, 2013. At the time there were more than 70,000 Rwandan refugees still living in different countries, the majority of whom have voluntarily repatriated or sought asylum where they are.