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.
Issue one: Recognition and identification of each refugee in North Kivu.
Problem: Basing of the statistics from the Congolese National Commission for refugees, only 200,000 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 and are not recognized as refugees.
Put in place a refugee registration process and a fully funded registration department at CNR that works on cases daily,
Continuous 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,
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, others have to pay money with women have to offer sex in exchange with services in order to cross the borders,
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 through between UNHCR/CNR and Migration Officers at the borders, but 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,
To encourage partners to put in place activities which can help asylum seekers right from the borders,
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 and refugees have also been victims,
To put to the end the 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, and also being given opportunity to seek for legal services from civil society organizations,
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,
Put in place a clear information strategy that can help foreigners to be fully aware about UNHCR/CNR services, and services offered by civil society organizations working on refugee issues,
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 viewed as a political tool to expose them to risks in their countries of origin, mainly Rwanda. Repatriation should not be considered as priority especially because that DRCongo has better options and alternatives that can ensure the well-being of refugees than their countries of origin.
Put to the end the forced deportation of refugees back to Rwanda, Central African Republic, Burundi among others 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 repatriation 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 and came back to North Kivu to seek refuge again,
Reduce funding to repatriation process of refugees and asylum seekers,
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 especially those in Goma,
To put to the 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.
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,
Capacity building to various security services which are suspected as playing roles in refugee affaires,
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.
Put in place official settlements and other place recognized places of refugees for refugees, far from the borders and ensure that these settlements are well protected,
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,
Put in place independent refugee leadership which works for the interests of refugees,
Issue Eight: Humanitarian Relief Aid
Problem: Thousands of refugees do not have access to humanitarian relief aid, UNHCR and most of humanitarian relief agencies and all organizations are focusing their attention to only Internally Displaced Persons, this has exposed refugees to many risks.
UNHCR should reclaim her traditional and natural mandate to support refugees with relief aid, put in place clear coordination strategy, and mobilization of various actors,
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,
Issue Nine: Reform UNHC/CNR
UNHCR and CNR are unclear on their policies and interventions towards refugees, they lack commitment and orientation to strive for the protection of refugees. Most of their efforts tend to discourage 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,
To replace the current UNHCR human resource and put in place a new with a clear vision on how to ensure the protection of refugees,
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. Most vocal refugees are negatively perceived and are not involved in consultations and planning. 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. Currently to become a refugee representative someone must be appointed by UNHCR and the CNR,
UNHCR/CNR should give opportunity to refugees to elect freely their representatives, support them financially and put end to threats against them,
UNHCR/CNR should create a conducive environment where refugee leaders should work from and freely engage on critical matters,
Ensure that all refugees in North Kivu are represented in decision making through election of refugee representatives in other areas in North Kivu,
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos
In-charge of Refugees and Foreigners
COJESKI-RDC, Coordination of North Kivi
Address: Kituku, on the Road to CCLK, after La Sapientia University, Kyeshero Goma.