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Rwanda urges its refugees to return home as UNHCR deadline looms

Xinhua,December 23, 2017 Adjust font size:

KIGALI, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Rwanda on Friday made a fresh appeal for its refugees living abroad to return to the country ahead of the Dec. 31, 2017, a deadline when the UN refugee agency will cease their refugee status under a cessation clause.

More than 20,000 Rwandan refugees fall in the scope of the cessation clause, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Addressing journalists in Kigali, Rwandan Minister of Disaster Management and Refugees Jeanne d'Arc De Bonheur warned that Rwandans who do not return before the deadline will be treated as illegal immigrants in their host countries.

They are encouraged to voluntarily repatriate before the cessation clause comes into force, said De Bonheur, adding that those who can't return for various reasons are advised to legalize their stay in those countries.

The minister explained that government of Rwanda has helped the refugees to obtain necessary documents like passports through Rwandan embassies and online platforms of the immigration authority.

The UNHCR had recommended hosting countries to invoke the "ceased circumstances" clause for Rwandans who fled their country between 1959 and 1998.

Under the cessation clause, refugees lose that status when fundamental and durable changes in a refugee's country of origin occur whereby there is no longer well-founded fear of persecution requiring international protection.

At least 84,596 Rwandans have been repatriated from 2009 up to 2017, of which 78 percent are from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the Rwandan ministry of disaster management and refugees affairs. Enditem