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we object the current proposed verification of refugees in Goma DRCongo does exclude so many

Copy for information to:

His Excellency the Governor of the Province

Goma / North Kivu DR Congo

To the Regional Representative

United Nations High Commissioner

For Refugees (UNHCR)

Kinshasa – D.R.Congo

United Nations High Commissioner

For Refugees (UNHCR),

Sub-Delegation of Goma – R.D.Congo

To the Permanent Secretary

National Commission for Refugees C.N.R

Kinshasa, R.D.Congo,

To the President of the Civil Society Coordination Force Vive

Goma, North Kivu / D.R.Congo

To the Head of Antenna of North Kivu

National Commission for Human Rights

Goma, North Kivu / D.R.Congo

To Refugee Representatives

North Kivu / R.D.Congo

Mr. The Head of Antenna

National Commission for Refugees

Goma, North Kivu / DRCongo

Subject: Request to set up inclusive verification and accompany this with the registration of refugees from 1994 to 1998 who are undocumented until now. This time the CNR should no longer accuse them of rebels against the country while they are excluded from accessing services related to their protection.

Dear Head of Antenna,

We come to you to draw your attention to the already scheduled and foreseeable failures of the verification and registration of refugees in North Kivu. As this exercise carries our hope this time around to begin a lasting solution to the multitudes of refugee problems from 1994 to the present. For us this exercise does not deserve to be treated with the lightness that you seem to show but rather with great seriousness and with adequate means, given that the problem of refugees in this province affects our life itself, our politics, our security, our economy, our environment, our international reputation and our moral, cultural and religious values. In short, our approach to refugees is linked to our identity as the people of the DRC and everything you do commits us all.

The theme for World Refugee Day 2021 states “Together we heal, learn and shine” but also the theme for Refugee Day 2016 “One refugee without protection is too many“. Thus the refugees would not be mere beneficiaries but also participants and the host populations in their communities must together with you and us participate for the success of this project.

Referring then to Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 which states “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. Everyone has the right to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination”. We always continue to remind you of the need to abandon the practices that would be perceived as being at the root cause of the violation of the rights of refugees in North Kivu.

We have just been surprised by a Social Media Communiqué attributed to CNR and UNHCR Goma on the verification of refugees in the Commune of Goma and Karisimbi which appears to be exclusive, discriminatory and would leave other refugees in questions. We first thank you for this first Communiqué that we have just seen since this year 2021 began, and we encourage you in this noble task of verifying refugees in Goma that we support and remain available to make it more inclusive in order to contribute to the protection of each refugee.

The launch of the verification of refugees as well as the protection of refugees in North Kivu should not in any case be used for petty political interests but rather a purely humanitarian gesture aimed at the protection of the person as recommended by the Convention of l ‘OAU of 1969. Looking at the triggering of this verification we find only the political calculations which have ruined the protection of refugees in this province, the purpose of which seems to veil the true intentions.

The current security situation in the province of North Kivu under a state of siege does not seem favorable to the mobilization of refugees for the verification, the recent declarations of the various authorities criminalizing the refugees do not favor a good verification currently, the refusal of the CNR to recognize the protection for refugees who have integrated armed groups does not show a desire to solve the problem, the security threats that are hanging over some refugees including the disappearance of Angelo here in Goma on May 26, 2021, the deliberate devaluation of the refugee status by the CNR and UNHCR maintained in North Kivu will not be able to encourage the refugees, as well as the allegations of the persistence of arbitrary arrests of refugees in several places and this, in the silence of the CNR does not encourage, the maintenance in place of the policy of forced repatriation of refugees especially to Rwanda threatens the verification and the registration process. The persistence of the allegations which weigh on certain CNR and UNHCR Goma agents as either Rwandans, or resident in Rwanda or working on behalf of the Rwandan government poses another problem of credibility of the actors who will be involved in this verification and registration of refugees.

The question of time, actors, objectives, and results as well as the necessary prerequisites to meet our expectations of verifying and registering each refugee are not met. As a consequence, you still have the risk of doing this exercise for some and excluding others and this would distance the efforts of peace and security in North Kivu which would go through real solutions to the problems of refugees through the CNR and UNHCR Goma.

We are very concerned about the militarized way in which this verification seems to be taking place, in an exclusive manner, and the cavalier approach that overlooks the different actors who contribute to the protection of refugees in their respective different host communities.

We already doubt the results of this verification, and even the good intentions of this verification given that many of the refugees do not use social media, many do not even have a phone. And even many of the refugees do not know French, which is the only language chosen by the CNR to address the refugees who have never been to school since 1994.

This press release was made public on Friday August 27, 2021 so only 9 days before the verification which is very difficult to deliver the information to each refugee in Goma and Karisimbi because the refugees do not know each other and do not have places for meetings.

Our weekly meetings have always been dominated by surprises from refugees who are even neighbors but don’t know each other, and often they are surprised to meet at our office.

Based on the attendance list of refugees who attend our weekly meeting each Sunday, over 30% of participants do not have a phone number, and only less than 150 refugees are recognized as members of two Whatsup Groups, the first is managed by the Urban Refugee Committee and the second by ourselves.

The recent distribution of money to refugees in Goma and Karisimbi seems to indicate that the telephone strategy is not enough to communicate with all refugees, and this would help us to learn other lessons to establish more effective communication strategies with all refugees.

The information based on our meeting with UNHCR in March 2021 and with the CNR in May 2021 indicates that during the previous verifications you made Communiqués everywhere even in Churches to sensitize the refugees, meetings with refugees in their communities but you had doubted how some refugees did not have the information on the last check. Instead of acknowledging this failure you thought they had neglected or simply did not want the refugee status. As you will recall, in our meeting with you in May 2021 the refugees challenged these allegations which were brought against them by the CNR. We wonder why not do the same thing you did during the last verification, instead of trying to exclude those who are not taken into account in this communication strategy that you are putting in place.

Oddly enough, you seem to be in the same direction to repeat the same mistakes of the past, and this could further exclude refugees who nevertheless want to be well protected by the CNR and UNHCR. Copying and pasting the same errors would constitute a deliberate desire to perpetuate the refugee problem in North Kivu, instead of making efforts to help this country resolve this long-standing issue this time around. This would condemn us to speak for the next 4 or 5 years about the issue of refugees who do not yet have documents.

But also we are very concerned about your priorities and who really benefits from it. These refugees who are already known and well registered by you are still a priority in what? We know they should have a refugee identity card, fine, if that’s the purpose of this verification. Most of the documents held by the refugees are expected to expire in December 2021, we wonder what would justify this as a first priority, the great difficulties that we currently have around the protection of refugees in North Kivu are not related to those who already have refugee status, but largely those who are not yet registered especially from the period (1994-1998), this category remains the first priority which needs urgent protection by granting them document but curiously it does not appear in the Communiqué.

The priority would be to give value to the refugee status, to put an end to the exclusions of certain refugees since they are forced to live outside Goma and Karisimbi, the priority would be for the CNR and UNHCR Goma to claim the protection of each refugee everywhere they may be living in North Kivu, which we do not see yet. On the contrary we continue to see your policy of fragmenting refugees in particular, dividing refugees, excluding refugees and showing that some refugees are special and superior to others.

Still based on the negative perceptions of some refugees, some of whom believe that verification is a strategy to repatriate them to their country of origin when they do not want so, we are surprised that UNHCR and CNR have not yet set up information sessions to help refugees fully understand this program when the lack of information observed from UNHCR and CNR would in itself constitute the major problems facing refugees, and when they lack this information they often become victims of all kinds of exploitation to which the CNR and UNHCR often seem to respond with silence.

The Province of North Kivu in general and the City of Goma in particular remains one of the cities mostly affected by COVI19 after Kinshasa one would wonder what would justify this precipitation which, moreover, would entail enormous risks which would jeopardize efforts to protect refugees from COVID19. This comes as we observe that refugees remain largely spared from COVID19 and efforts should be put in place to support this resilience.

We inform you that in Uganda for example, UNHCR and the government were already proposing verification in July 2021 but after welcoming the concerns of several refugee leaders because of COVID19, this program was stopped pending the evolution of this deadly disease.

The Communiqué does not allude to the cases of the most vulnerable refugees especially those who cannot arrive at the place of verification, those who have security problems, and those who are either outside Goma, and outside from the Province of North Kivu, those who are sick, the elderly, those who are afraid of being in public because they are stigmatized, and so many others.

Based on our list of refugees in Goma and Karisimbi who did not have the money from COVID19 in 2020 for several reasons related to lack of information, we believe that it would be better to improve not to do the same mistakes of the past and especially that it is possible if at least we are all in the logic of the well-being of the refugees in North-Kivu.

The Communiqué also requires the presence of certain documents as conditions to change the family composition but you know that you have not yet done enough to help the refugees to obtain the Certificates of birth, marriage and so many others while you are knowledgeable about this problem.

In the foregoing Mr. Head of Antenna of CNR Goma, we humbly ask you to postpone this program for a later date for more positive results. And make sure that all your steps fall within the vision of the Head of State, whom he never ceases to recall and which we have already shared with you, whose summary is to make the DRC a land for refugees. The CNR is the structure of the Government which executes this Policy of the Head of State in matters of refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Set up a communication team that will travel to several corners of Goma to inform the refugees about this exercise. This team should be made up of well-trained refugees who can easily communicate with others,

Begin verification and identification once the cases of COVID19 have reduced in Goma, and even in the country, at this time you can well inform all authorities on the issue of refugee documents to avoid possible arbitrary arrests,

Set up several places where people can go to do the verification and at the same time receive those who want to register as refugees,

Make Communiqués in churches, on the radio, in schools / universities, in markets, and in several languages ​​spoken by the refugees,

Set up awareness meetings with several Actors such as Civil Society, religious leaders, Local Authorities, the media and the Police among many others to solicit their involvement in the success of this program,

Produce a complete program of the schedule of the global verification of all refugees in North Kivu and clarify the need for those who want to change their place of residence,

Give refugees clear information on how to obtain the certificates they need in the composition of their families,

Since Goma and Karisimbi are more privileged and above all are the only places where refugees have some form of protection, you should first communicate your strategy to help other refugees in their communities to avoid movements of refugees to Goma and Karisimbi,

Set up a system of sensitization and registration of refugees especially from 1994-1998 who have not yet had documents, but also asylum seekers who have no information to be in contact with either UNHCR either with the CNR,

Establish a continuous verification and registration process at CNR for those who will not be available during this 10 Day period which we believe is very little,

We ask you to set up information sessions for refugees in their communities on the why of this program, and consider the option of doing so in an open space in Tents instead of the Hall,

It is very important and very urgent for UNHCR and CNR to put in place a fundraising strategy to financially support your activities, instead of depending on chance or waiting for opportunities. To bring the results we expect this program should be well funded as we estimate that more than 87% of refugees in North Kivu do not have documents,

Make the registration of refugees from the period 1994-1998 a top priority and encourage those who have joined armed groups to leave this life in order to be protected by refugee status,

Jackson Baguma Ntamuzinda

Regional Coordinator

 

Author: Kuliloshi Pecos