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2014 UNHCR country operations profile - Rwanda

| Overview |

Working environment

  • Rwanda is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the 1961 and 1964 Statelessness Conventions and the majority of international conventions on human rights. It is also a party to the 1969 OAU Convention and has signed and ratified the 2009 Kampala Convention. The Government of Rwanda abides by the principle of non-refoulement and has been hosting refugees, mainly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but also from other countries in Africa, for decades.

  • In 2013, almost 75,000 refugees resided in the country, located in four camps and a transit centre. Between January and June 2013, a further 15,000 refugees crossed into Rwanda seeking refuge due to a deterioration of the security situation in the DRC. As the influx from the DRC continues, the Government has identified a site, in Mugombwa, where a fifth refugee camp needs to be established. With an average monthly arrival rate of 2,600 individuals, the number of refugees for 2014 may rise to almost 91,000 persons.

  • In 2012, over 10,000 refugees returned to Rwanda, in addition to almost 10,000 and 7,500 in 2010 and 2011 respectively. With the implementation, as of the end of June 2013, of the comprehensive solutions strategy for Rwandan refugees who fled the country between 1959 and 1998, an additional 20,000 are expected to return in 2014.

  • The Rwandan Government is prioritizing economic development, with the ambition of transforming Rwanda from a low to a mid-level development country. It is ranked 167th out of 187 countries in the 2013 Human Development Index (UNDP). Rwanda has already provided land for the establishment of five refugee camps. For the next biennium, it is anticipated that the support provided for refugees by Rwanda will include the integration of over 2,800 refugee students into local schools.

  • While the overall security situation in Rwanda remains calm, the armed conflict on its border with the DRC (North Kivu) affects the level of security in that area.

People of concern

The majority of the refugees in Rwanda are from the DRC. Some of these refugees fled to Rwanda during the 1990s due to insecurity and the humanitarian crisis in eastern DRC. About 30,000 of them arrived after April 2012, as a result of fighting between government forces and rebel groups.

With the invocation of the cessation clauses in June 2013, an additional 20,000 Rwandan refugees are expected to have returned by the end of 2014. The majority will return from the DRC, while others will return from countries such as Burundi, the Republic of the Congo and Uganda.

Planning figures

UNHCR 2014 planning figures for Rwanda
TYPE OF POPULATION ORIGIN Dec 2013 Dec 2014 Dec 2015
Total in country of whom assisted
Total in country of whom assisted
Total in country of whom assisted
Total 81,680 81,670 122,570 122,570 111,170 111,170
Refugees Burundi 330 330 330 330 330 330
Dem. Rep. of the Congo 75,000 75,000 91,960 91,960 90,560 90,560
Various 20 20 20 20 20 20
Asylum-seekers Dem. Rep. of the Congo 200 200 150 150 150 150
Various 30 30 30 30 30 30
Returnee arrivals during year (ex-refugees) Rwanda 6,000 6,000 30,000 30,000 20,000 20,000
Others of concern Rwanda 30 30 20 20 20 20
Various 60 60 60 60 60 60

| Response |

Needs and strategies

In 2014 and 2015, the main protection needs are SGBV prevention and response, and child protection. Assistance in education, shelter, water and sanitation for refugees, and assistance in reintegration for returnees, will also be provided.

The Office will also prioritize: resettlement departures; best interest determination; favourable protection environment; registration; refugee status determination; the distribution of sanitary materials; and access to medical care, and psychosocial and legal assistance.

The promotion of access to education in Rwandan public schools is important for all refugee students. Moreover, those who complete lower secondary level education need support to be able to access the upper secondary level.

Following an agreement with the Government leading to the construction of some 4,250 shelters in Kigeme, shelter implementation in the remaining camps will also be important in 2014.

There is a need to increase the daily water supply from the current level of 9 litres per person to at least 15 litres per person for Nyabiheke, Gihembe and Kigeme camps. UNHCR will focus on the maintenance of the existing water infrastructure.

While reception facilities for returnees and inland transportation to areas of origin are prioritized, a funding shortfall will affect reintegration activities in terms of health coverage, shelter and education.

| Implementation |


In Rwanda, UNHCR works with central and district government authorities, implementing partners and other humanitarian agencies.

Through the Delivering as One initiative, the Office continues to participate in the disaster management and humanitarian response group to ensure that assistance to refugees and returnees is prioritized both within the United Nations and on the national development agenda.

Since the influx of refugees from the DRC began in 2012, UNHCR has strengthened its collaboration with UN agencies such as UNICEF, UN Women, WFP and WHO. In 2014, these partnerships will be maintained and expanded, while new partnerships will be explored to collaborate on protracted refugee situations.

The relationship with the district authorities, particularly in the areas where refugee camps are located, will also be strengthened with the aim of gradually integrating refugee services, such as education and health, into national systems.

2014 UNHCR partners in Rwanda
Implementing partners
Government agencies: Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs
NGOs: Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Africa Humanitarian Action, American Refugee Committee, Parlement des Jeunes Rwandais
Operational partners
Government agencies: Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs
NGOs: American Refugee Committee, Latter-day Saints Charities, Save the Children, World Vision Rwanda

| Financial information |

The financial requirements for UNHCR's operation in Rwanda have increased from USD 22.6 million in 2010 to a revised 2013 budget of USD 46.4 million, following the influx of Congolese refugees fleeing insecurity and human rights violations in eastern DRC. In 2014, with the new influx of Congolese refugees, the financial requirements for the operation are set at USD 51.8 million, an increase of USD 5.5 million compared to the revised 2013 budget.

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2014-2105



Statistical Snapshot*
* As at January 2014
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries based on 10 years of asylum-seekers recognition.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation whose status has not yet been verified.
  3. Persons whose application for asylum or refugee status is pending at any stage in the procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013. Source: Country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance. It also includes persons who are in an IDP-like situation.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013.
  7. Refers to persons under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.
  8. Persons of concern to UNHCR not included in the previous columns but to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance.
  9. The category of people in a refugee-like situation is descriptive in nature and includes groups of people who are outside their country of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Rwanda [1]
Refugees [2] 73,349
Asylum Seekers [3] 214
Returned Refugees [4] 7,803
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 0
Various [8] 124
Total Population of Concern 81,490
Originating from Rwanda [1]
Refugees [2] 83,937
Asylum Seekers [3] 8,481
Returned Refugees [4] 7,803
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 3,992
Total Population of Concern 104,213
Government Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2000
2014 0
2013 0
2012 0
2011 0
2010 0
2009 0
2008 0
2007 0
2006 0
2005 0
2004 0
2003 0
2002 0
2001 0
2000 11,849

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Congolese Refugees flee to Rwanda

In the first ten days of May 2012, more than 6,500 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo crossed into Rwanda, fleeing fighting between the Congolese army and renegade soldiers. UNHCR and its UN partners worked with the Rwandan government to provide the refugees with humanitarian assistance in the early stages of the crisis, and to find solutions until it is safe for them to return.

Some of the refugees walked for days before reaching the Goma-Gisenyi border crossing between Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. They came with their belongings, including mattresses, clothing, perhaps a few toys for the children. The images are from the border and from the Nkamira Transit Centre, located 22 kilometres inside Rwanda. Accommodation at Nkamira is poor: the centre can only host up to 5,400 individuals. It is only temporary shelter, but numbers continue to swell as hundreds cross the border every day.

Congolese Refugees flee to Rwanda

Kigeme: A home carved from the hills for Congolese refugees

The Kigeme refugee camp in Rwanda's Southern province was reopened in June 2012 after thousands of Congolese civilians started fleeing across the border when fighting erupted in late April between Democratic Republic of the Congo government forces and fighters of the rebel M23 movement. Built on terraced hills, it currently houses more than 14,000 refugees but was not significantly affected by the latest fighting in eastern Congo, which saw the M23 capture the North Kivu provincial capital, Goma, before withdrawing. While many of the adults long for lasting peace in their home region, the younger refugees are determined to resume their education. Hundreds enrolled in special classes to help them prepare for the Rwandan curriculum in local primary and secondary schools, including learning different languages. In a camp where more than 60 per cent of the population are aged under 18 years, the catch-up classes help traumatized children to move forward, learn and make friends.

Kigeme: A home carved from the hills for Congolese refugees

Keeping Busy in Rwanda's Kiziba Camp

Rwanda's Kiziba Camp was opened in December 1996, after the start of civil war in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The facility was constructed to help cope with the influx of tens of thousands of Congolese refugees at that time. Some of the refugees have since returned to their homes in eastern DRC, but about 16,000 remain at the remote hilltop camp located in the Western province of Rwanda. Fresh violence last year in DRC's North Kivu province did not affect the camp because new arrivals were accommodated in the reopened Kigeme Camp in Rwanda's Southern province. Most of the refugees in Kiziba have said they do not want to return, but the prospects of local integration is limited by factors such as a lack of land and limited access to employment. In the meantime, people try to lead as normal a life as possible, learning new skills and running small businesses to help them become self-sufficient. For the youth, access to sports and education is very important to ensure that they do not become sidetracked by negative influences as well as to keep up their spirits and hopes for the future.

Keeping Busy in Rwanda's Kiziba Camp

The suffering and strength of displaced Congolese women

During the ceaseless cycle of violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is the vulnerable who suffer the most, especially women and children. The issue of widespread sexual and gender-based violence is a major concern for UNHCR, but it never goes away. The refugee agency has received dozens of reports of rape and assault of women during the latest wave of fighting between government forces and rebel troops as well as militia groups in North and South Kivu provinces. It is an area where rape is used as a weapon of war.

The fear of sexual and physical violence forces thousands of women to seek refuge away from their homes or across the border in countries such as Rwanda and Uganda. Often their menfolk remain behind and women become the heads of household, looking after young children. They are the bedrock of society, yet they are often the first to suffer when instability comes to their home areas.

The following images were taken recently in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda by Frédèric Noy. They depict Congolese women who have fled their homes, leaving almost everything behind, and sought shelter in a place they hope will be better than where they came from. In many ways they have become inured to hardship, but so many of them continue to retain hope for themselves and their children. And that is an inspiration to those who help them.

The suffering and strength of displaced Congolese women