Outcome on the briefing with refugees in Goma on Sunday May 2nd, 2021 at our office in Kituku, Kyeshero Goma/ D.R.Congo
The meeting started at 2:30 pm with an opening prayer which was done by a volunteer among the participants. The meeting witnessed the increase of young people who were 10 among them two young girls and still women are the majority.
Issue on the agenda included the impact of the UNHCR Boss visit, the consequences of the “Etat de Siege” which is being considered for North Kivu and Ituri Provinces which are among the provinces hosting so many refugees which are not yet registered, the issues at hand and the world refugee day in June 2021.
On the issue of the UNHCR Boss
Refugees shared their ideas and released that some hopes which had been created in the preparation of UNHCR boss are fading away as many are again being denied medical care, refused registration and so many other services which are still denied to them. They also observed like many that Philippo Grandi did not put attention on issues affecting refugees in eastern D.R.Congo and continue to regret that UNHCR is taking the path of politics in favor of their countries of origin. The denial of services is one among the indicators to force them to repatriate and those who will not will be left to die in silence. Yet UNHCR in DRCongo is not clear on humanitarian services to refugees, on contrary makes priority the repatriation which is perceived as “forced repatriation”.
The security of refugees in North Kivu and Ituri
Refugees also interacted among themselves about their security situation during that period of “Etat de siege” especially for those who do not have documents and those whose documents expired. They were informed on what “etat de siege” means and shared advise among themselves how they should behave and cooperate with the state during that period. Refugees are extremely worried that this situation may be used to repatriate them by force, arbitrary arrest those who have no identities and others may be killed on allegations that they are part of rebels because they do not have identification, they are also concerned about hunger during that period and how to manage the house rent.
We are not yet sure what the government plans to do but we promised them to interact with the Congolese Commissioner for Refugees in order to find out which plans are they putting in place and then we shall inform refugees during our next meeting on Sunday, or even through SMS in case there is no meeting.
A group of refugees is going to sit and draft letter to various stakeholders to alert them on the vulnerability of refugees and asylum seekers during this period, and also there will be option to engage the media on this particular issues, with the purpose to ensure that refugees are fully protected.
Issues at hand
The meeting was informed about refugees who are being detained in different health centers because they failed to pay the money and refugees from various places who are denied medical treatment forcing to die from their homes in silence. On this point the meeting discussed on engaging UNHCR Goma through an urgent email and also calling upon a meeting with the refugee representative in order to take common actions which can address this problem which have stayed for long and which seems UNHCR is not so much concerned about it.
As we draft these minutes so far we have written an email to Protection Officer UNHCR Goma, the CNR and copied the refugee representative. And UNHCR Protection team have promised to make a follow up with refugees health volunteers in order to solve this issue. Our view is that denial of refugee health services should be criminalized.
The meeting was also informed about refugees and asylum seekers who have no documents, some have spent two weeks going to CNR but they have not been registered. We promised to accompany them on Monday, and as these minutes are being drafted so far our team has secured an appointment with the CNR on this issue and many others issues pending.
The meeting was also informed about refugees in some places who are highly affected by hunger and living in very difficult situation, some have no even where to sleep. Our team intends to go and visit them in order to alert stakeholders on their situation, but many refugees remained concerned why they are not grated food. On this we still need to engage with UNHCR and WFP to find out why this the legality and rationale of deniying humanitarian assistance to refugees.
The meeting was also informed that refugees from Nyiragongo and other parts who were referred to health centers were denied treatment and they are at home waiting for their fate. We promised to engage the refugee leadership in order to find alternatives to this urgent problem and a meeting was suggested for Wednesday May 5th, 2021 at our office at 9 am.
Refugees were also informed about our second media with the second media group of Radio la Colombe which offered us an interview and which broadcasted on Saturday and Sunday and with this we intend to engage more the media in the future.
Activities during last week
Refugees were informed about the ongoing engagement with Communication Companies mainly Airtel and Orange Congo, a letter will be drafted this Monday and shall be addressed to these Communication Companies with copies to UNHCR and CNR.
On issues on Humanitarian Relief Aid to refugees, we interacted with some organizations mainly the International Committee of the Red Cross which indicated they are not having refugee programs, we also contacted Norwegian Refugee Council which indicated that they do not deal with refugees in D.R.Congo. We shall continue interacting with other existing organizations but so far we have not yet managed to find an organization dealing with refugees here in Goma.
World Refugee Day
This time refugees in Goma want to organize themselves their first refugee day, many were happy to hear about this programme and for that many suggestions were brought forward and a team composed of the organizing committee will be put in place in our next week and shall focus on key issues to deal with. This team will be composed of refugees and technically supported by our administration.
Various information was shared on activities being done by refugees especially the registration of the first refugee led organization called “Action des Refugies pour le Developement et le bien-etre Social”. We pledged to offer them a space for their meetings every Thursday from our offices.
Refugees also then held their various meetings in their groups which we put in place as following:
Women refugees Group: Meeting on Friday at 2pm
Youth Refugee Group: Meeting on Friday at 3pm
Men Refugee Group: Meeting on Sunday at 12pm
Administration Meeting: Saturday at 9 am
The meeting also suggested to invite officers from CNR and UNHCR to answer to various questions refugees have.
Refugees were informed that many want to leave the forests where they are often mixed up with armed groups but they are afraid because there are no services for them such as humanitarian relief aid and they fear being forcefully taken to Rwanda. We are concerned with such revelation and we shall take it to the authorities,
Done by Global Refugee Leaders Forum Team in Goma