The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) identifies a major protracted refugee situation as one where more than 25,000 refugees have been in exile for more than five years. Protracted refugee situations refer to those that have moved past the emergency phase, but for which there seems to be no possibly of safe and durable repatriation in the foreseeable future. They are not always static populations; there are often periods of increase and decrease in the numbers of people displaced and changes within the population. Today in the world there are around 30 major protracted refugee situations. Populations are living in this state of limbo for an average of 20 years – an increase from an average of nine years in the early 1990s. There are not only more people living in protracted refugee situations, but they are lasting much longer. (Milner & Loescher, 2011) Protracted displacement often originates from states whose chronic insecurity lies at the centre of wider regional instability. (Milner & Loescher, 2011)
This is certainly true in the case of the population living as long-term refugees in Rwanda, almost all of whom originate from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Since the early 1990’s the African Great Lakes Region has been torn apart by conflict. 8 The 1994 Rwandan genocide and its consequences served as a catalyst precipitating further breakdown and crisis in the region including across Eastern DRC, where ongoing conflict and displacement continue today. (Prunier, 2011)
Rwanda currently hosts a population of 72,856 refugees9. Of this population, 99% of refugees come from the DRC, with small numbers of others coming from Burundi, Chad, Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda. Recent renewed violent conflict over land and ethnic tensions in North and South Kivu in Eastern DRC has seen large numbers of newly displaced Congolese flooding across the borders into Rwanda. Since April 2013, UNHCR have registered 26,700 new refugees mostly relocated to the newly established Kigeme Camp and Nkamira Transit Centre (while they await transfer). (UNHCR; Government of Rwanda, 2013)
8 An area including the countries of Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda.
9 Figures as of June 2013. The decrease in population figures is due to: absenteeism at the refugee verification exercise, double registration, persons inactivated pending resolution of Rwandan ID issue, and persons inactivated because of lack of adequate documentation.