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Rwandan refugees return home as deadline looms

KIGALI – Rwandan refugees from the neighbouring DR Congo are rushing back home to beat the deadline for the cessation of refugee status.

Rwandan refugees have up to December 31 to either secure legal residency in host countries, return home or risk losing protection after the cessation date.

According to the East African newspaper, repatriations from the Democratic Republic of Congo have increased from an average of 120 refugees per week in 2016 to more than 2,000 refugees per week over the past one month officials say.

This has seen the country receive over 11,000 returnees in the first eight months of this year compared with 5,580 in 2016.

“For the first time, we have received 5,412 returnees in just three months and we expect the number to keep increasing. We are making sure that we are prepared to receive all those who will have registered to return by the set deadline,” Antoine Ruvebana, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees (MIDIMAR) said.

But refugees from other host countries such as Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Congo Brazzaville, among others, remain low.

 Ruvebana said the ministry was prepared for mass arrivals in the final weeks leading up to the deadline.

MIDIMAR recently introduced a new transit centre capable of accommodating 680 returnees in southern Nyanza District after the centres at Kijote and Nyarushishi got swamped by an influx of returning citizens.

Kijote, which is the initial destination for refugees coming back through Bukavu has a capacity of processing 250 people while Nyarushishi, on the North Kivu side, can handle 640 people.

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