The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Uganda Mr. Joel Boutrue has come out to deny any knowledge of formal repatriation of Rwandese refugees back to their homeland.
He made these comments during a press conference that was held at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala on Tuesday.
Speaking today, Boutrue said that as an organization, they are only aware of some voluntary return of South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) nationals back to their motherland.
However he said, for the case of Rwanda they have no formal arrangement and as such they are not aware of such incidents.
“There has been no repatriation organized to Rwanda or anywhere else. Whenever we want to go into voluntary repatriation, this is the objective; we try a contact agreement between the host country, the country of return and UNHCR. That is what I can say, there has been no organized repatriation to date,” he explains.
Reacting on the same point, the UNHCR Regional Director for Africa Mr. Raouf Mazou said that as of last year it is estimated that 100,000 people voluntarily returned to their countries of origin to rebuild their lives.
Asked to relate the predicament facing Rwandese refugees and the UN’s cessation clause, Mazou said that like other refugees worldwide, Rwandans are free to return to their country of origin in a voluntary manner once it is verified that the violations that caused them to flee are no more.
Alternatively, he said that those that deem the situation in their mother countries not stable enough can continue living in their host countries under this arrangement.
This he says has worked in previous circumstances involving refugees from war torn Sierra Leone and Nigeria among many others.
“There are people who left the country in 1994 and we are now in 2019. You can imagine that a number of them have had children and even grandchildren. So our position is that the return has to be voluntary and those who are not in the position of going back to their places of origin should be given an opportunity to remain in a country where they are and that applies to Rwandan refugees but also to other refugees on the African continent,” he says.
The cessation clause is a tool that is used at the end of a refugee situation to determine the fate of persons of flight on whether they still want to continue to enjoy from the protection of the host country or return to the country of origin voluntary.
According to Mazou, there are about 250,000 Rwandan refugees or asylum seekers across the region.
Rwandan refugees in numbers
Separately, a July 2017 UNHCR newsletter titled “Rwanda Voluntary Repatriation: Update No.1 / 1-31 July” indicates that out of 5,775 returnees as of that date 1,222 of those displaced persons had voluntary returned from the DRC.
Collectively, the same paper says that 3, 440,483 Rwandese citizens had returned since 1994.