Urgent Action: We call upon the Military Regime in North Kivu to release all refugees arbitrary arrested this morning Thursday September 30th, 2021 in Goma.
While we have expressed our support to the current “state of Siege” in North Kivu and Ituri Provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have alerted about all the possible risks related to the protection of refugees. We have observed little efforts deployed by UNHCR and CNR in order to ensure the protection of refugees and at the same time the Military authorities seem to have little information about refugees.
Myths and stereotypes surrounds beliefs and debates around the presence of refugees in Goma and in North Kivu, little seems to be geared towards their protection but efforts do move towards their deportation.
Today September 30th, 2021 refugees around Goma in Rusayo/Mugunga which is one among highly concentrated refugee areas in Goma woke up with the surprise of Military Operations in the area. Eye witnesses we talked to have indicated that over 300 people mainly foreigners have been arrested in Goma since yesterday.
This refugee woman whose husband has been arrested told us “it was around 5am, I heard people shouting from outside, telling us to open the door, I went and opened, then I saw so many soldiers outside. They told me to bring the gun, but I told them we do not have it, then they asked me if they can enter the house, I said yes, no problem, and then three among them entered the house. Those who entered were two soldiers and one Police Officer, they checked in the sitting room but found nothing. Then they asked me about my husband I told them he was sleeping, they entered in the bedroom and found him. They told him to bring the gun, but he told them that he does not have it, then they told him to move out, and then checked the whole house but found nothing. Then they took him and moved with him to the place which I do not know up to now. They took his refugee documents and said that he should be arrested because he is a Rwandan refugees, on accusation that he should be the one facilitating the infiltration of Rwandan asylum seekers in DRCongo” that was the only reason why they arrested him.
This other women says also “I was outside sweeping in compound at around 6am today Thursday September 30th, 2021, outside my house, I saw two people in front of me putting on a civilians clothes, then they asked me about my husband I told them he was sleeping, they entered the house, they asked for the gun but I did not have it. They entered the bedroom and asked my husband to wake up and go with them, then more came in and checked everything and found his refugee IDs, which they also took with him. Among those soldiers some were Tutsi and they are the ones who gave orders arrest my husband despite the fact that Congolese Soldiers had opted to release him because he was a refugee. These are refugees, you put them in the Lorry so that we can deport them to their country of origin said the Tutsi Officer.
Visit on ground
Our team today visited various places mainly at “SOTRAKI” where all those arrested were paraded before the Military Authorities and described as “security threats. Then they were taken to unidentified place up to now. We also moved up to City Hall of Goma, they were not there, however we were informed that all those who are Rwandans were supposed to be deported today. We also reached to General Directorate of Migration (DGM) where we were informed that only 4 refugees were detained in the cell at DGM, but also our team has moved to Rusayo were they were arrested from in order to find out what happened exactly.
We contacted the National Commission for Refugees (NCR) which is the Congolese Body in-charge of refugees, but Head of the Commission has not yet told anything up to now, claiming to be in a meeting. We also contacted UNHCR Goma and we have not received a positive feedback from the Protection team has indicated to be monitoring the situation. But also we have engaged with Congolese Commission of Human Rights who promised to follow up this case tomorrow Friday.
Situation of refugees’ identification and in North Kivu/ DRCongo
Currently we estimate more than 10,000 refugees and asylum seekers are in Goma and its surrounding without identification, CNR authorities have promised to issue them identification but in vain. We also estimate 700,000 refugees in North Kivu Province who are living without identification.
Recently UNHCR and CNR concluded and two weeks verification exercise and up to now so many refugees who had documents before are have not yet been issued new documents and have nothing that can prove that they are refugees. Some missed the varication and despite the promise through the authorities, up to now they have not been verified.
Basing on the above, we humbly call upon you to advocate for the protection of refugees in Eastern DRCongo:
To call upon UNHCR to take a clear position towards the protection of refugees or clearly indicate its incapacity for provide security to refugees, we encourage UNHCR to condemn abuses against refugees by the currently Military Authorities,
To call upon the military authorities to end all forms of arbitrary arrests against refugees and asylum seekers, and to put to ensure Tutsi are not involved in security operations in DRCongo against Hutus,
To desist from any form of deportation of refugees and put in place mechanisms that can favor the protection of all refugees and asylum seekers in DRCongo,
To ensure that all refugees are registered and issued an Identification Card,
To prioritize the awareness on how to seek for the refugee status in DRCongo,
To fund programs that can expand in formation to all asylum seekers and refugees in Goma on how best to remain safe,