Kigali (Rwanda): renewal of identity cards for refugees and reception of new asylum applications

Kigali (Rwanda): renewal of identity cards for refugees and reception of new asylum applications

Expired identity cards are those granted in 2017. The UNHCR and the Rwandan government explain that this renewal also means the revision of conditions of granting asylum. Meanwhile, new Burundian asylum seekers are showing up but their cases are scrutinized. INFO SOS Médias Burundi

Refugees, mostly Burundians and Congolese, come to the Gikondo community center (Kigali city) every day to drop off expired identity cards and collect new cards.

They rejoice in it.
“Here is my new card, it has a new ID number but the photo remains the same. It helps me a lot because insurance assistance program is included in it. And then, I was afraid that my bank might prevent me from withdrawing money with an expired card. It also means that I am still a refugee recognized by law, which is good for me who has not yet made the decision to return home to Burundi,” explains Gaspard N., a Burundian refugee found at the community center in Gikondo.

Further, his compatriot Aline B., thanks the Rwandan government for the welcome.
“In any case, Rwanda is among the countries that assist refugees well. I have a small combustible gas business. I sell and I pay the tax like the Rwandans. It is precisely this card that helps me pay taxes, I even have a tax identification number, ”she says.

Dieudonné says that his ID will allow him to renew his contract.

“My boss regularly asked me why I use an expired ID. But here it is – the answer has just been obtained. I will also continue to contribute to my savings cooperative, ”underlines this bartender.

The UNHCR and the Rwandan government explain that the granting of mutual health insurance, biometric passports and an ID are in a package of assistance from which refugees must benefit.

“It is also their right to have this assistance because it is contained in the 1951 Geneva Convention that Rwanda has ratified”, adds an official from the ministry in charge of refugees, MINEMA, seated on the same table next to that of the Immigration and UNHCR services, to give a good service.

The committee of urban refugees asks these Burundians and Congolese to keep “this precious document which marks their survival on Rwandan soil”.

New asylum applications

At the Gikondo community center, SOS Médias Burundi also met Burundian asylum seekers. Selemani, a young man from Kirundo (northern Burundi), has just arrived in Rwanda. The road has been long even if his province is bordering Rwanda.

It took him two days for a journey that he should do in two hours and more than 300 thousand Burundian francs in tickets and bribes on his way.

“I am from the commune of Busoni, bordering Rwanda. But, as the whole road is guarded every meter by Imbonerakure (members of the CNDD-FDD youth league, the presidential party) who obviously know me, I had to go around, go through the commune of Giteranyi in Muyinga (north -east), then by Tanzania and enter by the district of Kirehe in the far east of Rwanda”, he indicates.

He says he fled persecution.

“I am Tutsi, I had joined the ruling CNDD-FDD party to avoid harassment. But, I knew that there are meetings that were happening without my knowledge only because my sister fled the country in 2015. And then, I had just passed three years after finishing the agricultural technical school of Gitega (political capital) unemployed while the other Imbonerakure, Hutus, who finished last year have been hired. They thought of me as a mole and several times they wanted to eliminate me […]”, testifies Selemani.

The young man, like about thirty other compatriots, received an appointment to return another day to submit their asylum application at the Gikondo community center.

These cases are carefully examined.

These requests are first addressed to the Immigration services. One month later, if the request is not accepted, the person concerned lodges an appeal with the Prime Minister’s office.

“It is not really known if they are persecuted or if they are not envoys of power, which is why their applications must take a long process. And then, we have been in the phase of voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees since August 2020”, indicates a MINEMA agent.

With the reopening of the borders, Kigali risks welcoming several Burundians seeking asylum.

However, the Burundian refugees do not display a warm welcome for these newcomers either, fearing infiltrators in their community.

Rwanda already has more than 48,000 Burundian refugees. Most of them are housed in the Mahama camp located in the eastern province not far from Tanzania.

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