Not So Much Refugee Love

The Refugee Law project, International Refugee Rights Initiative and Social Science Research Council, just put out a wonderfully straight-shooting and appropriately contentious paper on the Rwandan Refugee situation in Uganda:

The paper, “A Dangerous Impasse: Rwandan Refugees in Uganda”, examines why refugees living in Uganda’s Nakivale settlement are refusing to return to Rwanda despite considerable push factors. Based on 102 interviews with Rwandan refugees, UN and government officials, the findings make it clear that there are legitimate reasons for the refugees’ stance. To the extent that refugee groups can act as a barometer of the situation at home, the findings are a serious indictment of the current Rwandan government. Refugees view the government as repressive, and dissent in many aspects of life is not tolerated. Those who question the regime are subjected to human rights violations that include discrimination in employment, imprisonment and forced disappearance. As a result, refugees are not only reluctant to return home, they are afraid.

The findings also show that although repression is seen in ethnicised terms, the real issue is the fact that there is little space for any political opposition within Rwanda regardless of ethnicity. As a result, while the genocide and its immediate aftermath might have been the original cause of flight for many, ongoing political repression in Rwanda is not only preventing refugees from returning, but is generating new refugees. In fact, almost a quarter of all those interviewed had arrived in Uganda since 2001. This version of the current realities of life in Rwanda, as seen through the eyes of a group of refugees who have suffered acutely as a result, suggests a different image from the one the government has presented to the outside world, and indicates that extreme caution needs to be taken with respect to
the promotion of voluntary repatriation.

Hattip to Joe Read


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