Briefing our weekly meeting with refugees in Goma yesterday Monday August 22nd, 2021 at our office
The meeting so the increase of young people who were six among them 4 girls and two boys, and this is one among the achievements especially that more young people are getting involved. But also for the first time men were many than women.
“We want a sign so that we can believe that a refugee status is important for us”.
The meeting focused on how to help refugees to defend their interests and focus on common interests rather than being scattered, this will help them to make demands and their voice can be heard. Only when refugees will come together as an alternative option then their situation will improve.
This was the major concern of refugees who attended our meeting yesterday. Why should we mobilize other to get a refugee status? Why is this refugee status important? What do we gain from it we who have it?
The meeting of yesterday was too hot as it focused on particular key issues which has held many refugees so captives and a prey to manipulation, that means political influence by local leaders who use refugees as quick way to win elections, and by armed groups who continue to use refugees for military operations. While we do not have specific answers but also no one could respond to our similar questions “what do those who are not having a refugee status gain? And what are the interests linked to the belief of pretending to camouflage as Congolese citizens?
At the same time, we have observed that the refugee status has not value because there are services attached to it and this is also one among the causes of the problems which UNHCR and CNR should fix quickly. We are also conscious of the non-existence of possible opportunities where refugees can meet and share their ideas but also learn from others and that was one among the reasons we put in place our weekly meetings.
Our meeting yesterday indicated how refugees do not have access to accurate information are many do base their information from what they get either through political leaders or through armed groups. One among the already existing fake information was on registration and verification of refugees which has been over the years attributed to “President Paul Kagame of Rwanda” in order to deport so many refugees back to Rwanda. Yesterday we took almost two hours explaining to refugees why this UNHCR exercise and why they should take part. We also shared with them the challenges related to a communication strategy with refugees especially during this period of the State of Siege and COVID19, we are working to develop a more interaction strategy through field work.
Refugees continued to argue about fear of being repatriated by force back to Rwanda but on ground there is nothing that can strongly back this fear, but also they do indicate lack of interest in order to claim for a refugee status. This one may need a strong advocacy to ensure that UNHCR and the government put in place services to all refugees which will motivate so many others to enroll and others abandon rebel groups.
At the end of the meeting, various announcements were made and participants shared information. Refugees exchanged information about the current money which is being given by UNHCR to all those who have school going children but only limited to those in Goma and Karisimbi Divisions, they also discussed the positive move from UNHCR to pay medical bills to some refugees located in Nyiragongo.
However questions still remain,
Our next meeting is on Sunday