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Our 10 Recommendations to UNHCR ExCom on the situation of refugees in Eastern DRCongo

Recommendations the United Nations on the situation of refugees in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo mainly for refugees in Goma and in the entire North Kivu Province.

These recommendations were made after a series of activities with refugees mainly: Our weekly meetings with refugees in Goma held every Sunday at our offices in Goma, our interactions with refugees on daily basis at our offices in Goma on various issues, two focused group discussions with refugees in Goma, our visit at Munzenze main prison of Goma, and our various interactions and meetings with stakeholders in Goma, actors of the Civil Society, Government officials, the security officers, the United Nations officials and the media.

Both the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Congolese National Commission for Refugees (CNR) are directly responsible for the protection of refugees in North Kivu.

The security degradation of refugees in North Kivu remains the main priority as they do indicate that security services from Rwanda always come to North Kivu to kill and deport them back to Rwanda. Those in Goma are too close to the border between Rwanda and DRCongo.

Issue one: Recognition and identification of each refugee in North Kivu.

Problem: Basing of the statistics from the Congolese National Commission for refugees, only 170,000 refugees and asylum seekers are recognized in North Kivu. We estimate that more than 700,000 refugees are living in the province mainly from Rwanda and Burundi. They all lack protection, humanitarian assistance and exposed to all forms of risks.

Recommendations

Put in place a refugee registration process and a fully funded registration department at CNR that works on cases daily,

Continue to grant refugee documents to refugees from especially those from Rwanda who are in DRCongo since 1994,

Grant refugees documents to asylum seekers in North Kivu who have been waiting for the refugee status more than 10 years now, recognize those who have submitted their demands to CNR Coma,

Issue two: Entry points of asylum seekers,

Problem: Many asylum seekers indicated challenges they are facing in order to cross to DRCongo, some are returned back to their countries because they do not have documents, others have to go through risky paths in order to cross into DRCongo.

Recommendations

Train and well facilitate the security services and Migration officers at the borders between Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi on refugee issues,

Create a direct contact and direct connection between UNHCR/CNR and Migration Officers at the borders, by putting in place specific officers in charge of welcoming asylum seekers,

To put in place interpreters who can facilitate in communication and reduce challenges caused by the language barrier,

To ensure that each asylum seeker is given the chance to interact with UNHCR/CNR before any decision is made about him/her,

Issue Three: End deportation of asylum seekers

Problem: The political and security authorities in North Kivu have argued that “foreigners” are the perpetrators of all forms of insecurity, despite the fact that these accusations lack evidence, and are more populist. With the instauration of the State of Siege, many foreigners have been deported after being arrested in various military operations.

Recommendations

To put to the end the unlawful deportation of undocumented asylum seekers,

Asylum seekers and foreigners arrested during military operations should be referred to UNHCR/CNR before any decision of their deportation is made,

Abstain from propaganda against foreigners claiming that they are the cause of the insecurity in North Kivu, desist from arbitrary arrests of foreigners in North Kivu, and put in place strategies that facilitate them to regularize their stay in North Kivu,

Put in place a clear information strategy that can help foreigners to be fully aware about UNHCR/CNR services,

Issue Four: End forced repatriation of refugees

Problem: UNHCR/CNR and partners have maintained the forced repatriation programme, which has affected so many refugees, has created fear among refugees about UNHCR/CNR and have viewed it as a political tool to expose them to risks in their countries of origin, mainly Rwanda.

Recommendations

Put to end the forced deportation of refugees back to Rwanda, and end all pretext that may justify the existence of such practice,

Provide refugees with accurate information and alternatives about their future lives rather than showing them the only option of Rwanda which is being put in place,

To end the practice of motivating refugees to go back by showing them that they will get money as a “package for return”.

Receive and registered those who were forcefully repatriated but came back to North Kivu to seek refuge again,

Issue Five: Deportation of refugees and asylum seekers

Problem: Since 2019 when the current regime took power, we have observed deportation of refugees mainly back to Rwanda and their family members allege the participation of UNHCR and CNR officers.

Recommendations

To put to end the deportation of refugees and asylum seekers in North Kivu,

To hold accountable UNHCR/CNR officers who are viewed to have played a role in the refugee deportation,

To trace back the whereabouts of refugees who were deported back to Rwanda in order to provide them with necessary legal assistance especially those who are believed to have been taken to Rwanda,

Issue Six: Physical security of refugees

Problem: There are refugees who have disappeared and no one knows what happened to them, some asylum seekers were arrested by security operatives and no one knows about them, and others have been targeted and killed by security services or people with guns.

Recommendations

Provide information about refugees who disappeared and allow their family members to visit them,

End targeted assassination of refugees and asylum seekers,

Put particular attention to refugees and asylum seekers at risks,

Issue Seven: Place of residence for refugees

Problem: Refugees in North Kivu do not have recognized place of residence where they can enjoy protection from and access services.

Recommendations

Put in place official settlements and other recognized places for refugees in North Kivu,

Put in place a joint security force between the Congolese Army and the MONUSCO Forces to ensure the security of refugees in their settlements,

Work with local leaders, traditional leaders and other actors of the Civil Society in order to help all partners to have clear information about refugees and about the protection of refugees in North Kivu,

Promote two among the three durable solutions for refugees mainly Local Integration and Resettlement to a third country,

Issue Eight: Humanitarian Relief Aid

Problem: Thousands of refugees do not have access to humanitarian relief aid (Shelter, Food, Education and Medical Care), UNHCR and most of humanitarian relief agencies and all organizations are focusing their attention only on Internally Displaced Persons, this has exposed refugees to many risks.

Recommendations

UNHCR should reclaim her traditional and natural mandate to support refugees with relief aid alongside with her desire to extend also services to Internally Displaced Persons,

UNHCR/CNR should mobilize other humanitarian organizations in order to support refugees and asylum seekers,

To mobilize funding for refugee issues in North Kivu in particular and in Eastern DRCongo in general,

To put in place urgent response and promoting economic activities to refugees in North Kivu,

Issue Nine: Reform UNHC/CNR

Problem: UNHCR and CNR are unclear on their operational policies and interventions towards refugees which remain inconsistent with the legal policies about the protection of refugees, they lack commitment and orientation to strive for the protection of refugees,

Provide UNHCR/CNR with human resource, adequate financial support, and a clear vision that favors the protection of refugees,

To investigate and hold accountable all UNHCR/CNR staffs that are accused of various abuses against refugees in North Kivu,

Issue Ten: Refugee participation

Problem: Refugees are left out in various issues affecting their lives yet the effective protection of refugees is in the hands of refugees in their communities through their representatives. Much as there are a practice to organize election of refugee leaders in Goma, in most case these leaders are submitted to threats, intimidations and fear of their lives, on the other hand refugees outside Goma are not represented.

Recommendations

UNHCR/CNR should give opportunity to refugees to elect freely their representatives, support them financially and put end to threats against them,

To put in place opportunities which may allow refugees initiatives and Civil Society Organizations to access funding and other financial opportunities,

UNHCR/CNR should create a conducive environment where refugee leaders,

Ensure that all refugees in North are represented in decision making through election of refugee representatives in other areas in North Kivu,

A meeting between all refugees and a Delegation from Geneva which should evaluate what UNHCR does to refugees,

Thanks

Kulihoshi Musikami Luc Pecos

In-charge of Refugees.

Author: Kuliloshi Pecos