Report of the consultative meeting between a member of Global Refugee Network (GRN) and Refugee Leaders in Goma, the Democratic Republic of Congo on May 23rd, 2022.
Through the advocacy and lobbying of COJESKI-DRC Coordination of North Kivu, Mr. Sedric Murhula from Global Refugee Network (GRN) interacted with refugee leaders in Goma. This was part of our efforts to continue our plan to work towards the visibility of refugees in DRCongo in general and in eastern parts in particular. We are much aware of the media coverage challenge which portray Congolese refugees who run away from the east in order to seek asylum in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and other countries, but also the media has deliberately ignored the presence of refugees from other countries in eastern DRCongo. When we talk about refugees in DRCongo, more is said about Congolese who run away but less is said about other people who seek asylum to Congo, and that is one among the challenges we are determined to address.
Sedric was also confronted to this reality and has to come in order to see, do refugees exist in eastern DRCongo? What are their problems? What can we do to address these challenges?
Over the years even the Global Refugee Network was not much sure about the presence of refugees in Goma and in the whole eastern parts of Congo. Sedric was surprised to meet with refugees from Burundi and Rwanda who attended the meeting. 18 refugee leaders attended the meeting, and two representatives from local organizations involved in refugee issues in Goma, mainly AJVDC and APROSOPEV.
Welcome remarks and personal introduction ,
Brief over view about the situation of refugees in North Kivu,
The work of the Global Refugee Network,
Current problems and proposed recommendations,
Interactions on various,
The meeting started by welcome remarks from Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos, who welcomed the participants and their host, he briefed the participants about the work of COJESKI DRC on issues affecting refugees and presented the apology from COJESKI Coordinator who could not make it because he was in official mission in Kinshasa.
Each participant introduced and generally it was about the name, gender, nationality, organization, position in the organization, and the telephone number. The attendance list was also produced.
Kulihoshi Musikami Luc Pecos presented briefly about the current situation of refugees in eastern DRCongo through the following:
Refugees in eastern DRCongo lost all forms of protection since 1996 up to now and unfortunately the consequences are so heavy and too bad on the side of refugees. That is why, we must work hard to claim back the protection of these refugees, we must restore their protection, and we must stand with them.
The official statistics indicate that refugees in DRCongo are 526,000 but these statistics are not credible and should be challenged. We estimate at 1,500,000 refugees in DRCongo among them 70% are in the eastern parts of the country. Our office does record all those refugees and asylum seekers who are not yet recognized.
Among the 526,000 refugees who are recognized, more than 200,000 are living in North Kivu that represents more than 45% of the refugee population, so we can easily say that Goma should also the capital city for refugees.
Only around 2,000 refugees in North Kivu have valid refugee documents, UNHCR has so far failed to ensure that all refugees are issued with accurate documents. And only 150 have access to humanitarian relief aid offered by UNHCR Goma in terms of education, health services and house rent. More than 70% of those who access this aid from UNHCR are refugees from Burundi who are perceived as Congolese who registered as refugees.
Refugees and asylum seekers here are using the following documents:
Refugee Identification Card issues by UNHCR and CNR, Refugee Attestation issued by UNHCR/CNR, Asylum seeker paper, and a letter from COJESKI-RDC,
This is how the situation looks like, it is in that environment that we have these refugee leaders who are pushing in different ways to support fellow refugees in difficult situation.
Various refugee problems were presented in three categories
Documentation: Thousands of refugees have no documents, others have expired documents and others have waited more than 10 years in order to get documents especially asylum seekers,
Security: Apart from the general security in the eastern DRCongo, refugees are negatively perceived by the local communities as rebels or those who came to take their land, or as spies working for their respective countries. Refugees are also victims of targeted massacres, assassination, arbitrary arrests, deportation and forced repatriation to countries where their lives are at risks,
Humanitarian relief aid: Over the years refugees do not access food, shelter, education, health services, development programs, and women have particularly victims of sexual and gender based violence.
The meeting also observed the existence of a strategy aiming a reducing the protection space to refugees and asylum seekers and such policy is faithfully implemented by UNHCR and the Congolese Government.
In order to push and strongly advocate for the rights of refugees in eastern DRCongo various ideas were brought forward.
To consider to organize a Conference in Goma on the situation of refugees and key actors were proposed,
To empower refugee leaders in a strong Forum where they can address their issues from and all levels,
Linking refugees with other existing opportunities and all levels, and consider the training of refugees,
Recommendations on the situation of refugees should be made and be submitted to other refugee leaders who will be going to Geneva,
Engage the Global Refugee Network for a training of refugees in eastern DRCongo,
Develop a concept note for the Conference on refugees in Goma,