Weekly meeting with refugees in Goma DRConngo on Sunday August 1st, 2021: Encouraging refugees to stand and defend their status and let the communities know that they are refugees
Refugee Participants in our meeting on Sunday in Goma discussing about their identity
Amidst such diverse views about the visibility of refugees, we are so clear on our position “ refugees should not fear about their identity or status anymore” we want to see refugees who are proud of who they are, incarnate positive values and expose to the public good images about refugees in Eastern DRCongo.
This was the main focus during on Sunday where we shared all stereotypes and myths surrounding the presence of refugees. This was also an opportunity to clarify on misinformation of refugees about the refugee status which has been over the years negatively perceived by refugees.
According to us most of these vices are connected to ignorance first of all among refugees themselves who do not know each other and who do not interact with others, the local communities who do not know much about refugees, and the stakeholders who are more political about refugees.
Among them we can mentioned:
One among the Refugee Religious Leaders sharing the word of God with others during our Sunday Meeting.
UNHCR Protection Team in Goma: Believes that the visibility of refugees will expose them to stigmatization and proposes that refugees remain in a low-profile, but we do not concur with this and we think that such position creates more stigma to refugees who are compiled to hide who they are and denied opportunity to defend their identity and their existence among the host community, this makes them to remain more invisible and actually profits some political actors.
The new Military Authorities in Goma: Those we have managed to interact with have indicated their total ignorance about the presence of refugees and would like to know more about this issue and how they can be identified from the general “foreigners” in the country, while other military officers think these should be refugees in Congo and should all be put in the category of migrants because these officers have no ideas about refugees.
In our Sunday meeting refugees indicated to us how they perceived as Interahamwe, others as rebels, others are geneocidaires, others killers, others as spies, others savage and cruel. This is because the local population does not know that they are refugees who came from Rwanda who are still in this country.
Through this we encouraged the participants to dominate fear and start using their refugee identification papers, but also to share information with local leaders about their status and to foster unity. Refugees indicated that they are also being infiltrated by other people who are sent by their countries of origin in order to spy on them, kill them and deport them, especially to Rwanda. We think that helping refugees to work together can reduce and expand the protection space to so many. We also looked at the abnormality in allowing refugees to stay in Goma which is located some meters from the borders and this makes it difficult to offer them protection, yet this is contrary to the existing policies.
The meeting was also dominated by concerns about the security situation of refugees especially in North Kivu where the participants reported various cases of arrests and forced disappearance of refugees taken to unknown places by security services, however we are not yet able to confirm these allegations because they all need field work. The meeting also looked at various actors who have contributed to the failure of the refugee registration process in North Kivu and informed the participants about the opportunity to share information with us. All those who do not have documents are encouraged to come to our office and they are put on the list which will be delivered to the concerned stakeholders.
The meeting also looked at various social problems affecting refugees, mainly those who are sick and cannot access medical treatment, those who are chased away from their house for failure to pay they rent, and those who have no food among the most vulnerable people.
Much as we are fully aware about the challenges ahead of us, we have embarked on a fundraising campaign in order to address some of these problems.
Refugees were also encouraged to register for our English Classes which have already started, the Tailoring Training and Refugee Women Group,
The meeting ended with refugees joining their various groups mainly women, men and young people.