The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is offering cash packages to any Rwandan refugee who returns home before end of 2017, according to UNHCR official.
Saber Azam, UNHCR Rwanda country representative told reporters on Saturday that the commission is giving 250 U.S dollars to each adult Rwandan refugee and 150 U.S dollars to any of their minors who returns home before Cessation Clause expires.
UNHCR approved Rwandan Cessation Clause in December 2011 but extended its application to June 30, 2013, and now to December 31, 2017.
The Cessation Clause provides for three options: voluntary repatriation, invocation of refugee status and local integration, as well as individual application for refugee status with convincing reasons.
“We have decided to provide financial resettlement packages in terms of cash to Rwandans returning home ahead of cessation clause expiry. The money will be a one-time assistance that will help the returnees to solve their problems as they settle,” said Azam.
He added that on top of the money, the returnees are offered free medical insurance for a year, a free mobile phone and free transportation to any destination within the country.
The new cash incentive assistance replaces the distribution of essential household items that refugees used to be given upon return, tempting some of them to sell part or all of what was provided.
About 3.4 million refugees have been repatriated since 1994, majority of them from Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the Rwanda ministry for disaster management and refugee affairs.
However, Seraphine Mukantabana, Rwandan minister for disaster management and refugee affairs said that the offer is likely to drive massive return of Rwandans fearing to lose refugee status in host countries.
“This is a good initiative and it will help them to resettle. Rwanda is safe and secure and ready to accommodate all Rwandan returnees. Both the travel facilitation and the resettlement cash package won’t be available for those who will miss the December 31, 2017, deadline,” she noted.
Mukantabana warned Rwandan refugees in different countries across the world that they won’t be considered as refugees any more after December 31, 2017.
The ministry for disaster management and refugee affairs says that an average returning rate of Rwandans still living in exile has been around 2,000 a year.
According to UNCHR, a refugee can choose to settle in the host country through legal channels and or only if the person applies again for special refugee status.
Millions of Rwandans have fled to exile from 1959 through to 1994.
UNHCR is expecting at least 20,000 refugees from DR Congo, Zambia, Cameroon and other countries.
Presently, there are 1,000 Rwandan refugees waiting to return from the DR Congo.