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The Rwanda Refugee Crisis

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978 words
Social Issues

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Rwanda, located in central Africa, suffers from one of the world's most recent refugee crises. The word refugees could be defined in the traditional context, " people who decide to seek asylum out of fear of political, racial, or religious persecution, or who leave their homes because of war or civil strife " 1. Between the seventies to eighties this definition began to change. The world was beginning to see a great many people seeking refuge due to " a variety of severe economic, social and military ills - poverty, famine and conflicts over resources " 2. Therefore, these factors have to be implemented in the traditional definition as well. People seeking refuge have only one concern and that is survival. They flee their homes to neighboring states in search of relief. In 1994, over two million people from Rwanda were forced out by genocide. It came to an end in July of 1994 when the country was supposedly liberated by the Rwandan Patriotic Front. The international world became involved in Rwanda when, " in June and July 1994, 2.5 million Rwandans crossed into Tanzania and Zaire "3. It took 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandans to die from genocide before the world acknowledged a problem. A question a rises over the competency of the international world's method in detecting problems such as the one in Rwanda. Were we not a little late in helping Rwandans, and as a world in the name of humanitarianism are we doing enough?
One of the international world organizations that can be examined in its assistance with refugees is the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). In 1951 the United Nations General Assembly created The United Nations High Commission for Refugees. It was given the responsibility " for protecting refugees and promoting lasting solutions. " 4. The UNHCR becomes involved in a refugee situation at the request of the United Nations (UN), the consent of the State involved, and the amount of funds available at the time. In refugee crisis's the type of assistance offered by the UNHCR is emergency assistance, care and maintenance, voluntary repatriation, local settlement and resettlement. These forms of aid would help create a lasting solution to the refugee problem. The UNHCR was one of the organizations that offered emergency aid to Rwanda.
To begin with one of the forms of emergency assistance is refugee camp. Refugee camps aid the people-seeking asylum with the necessities of food, shelter, clothing and security to the best of their ability. They are usually organized around territorial borders due to the fact that people fleeing their homeland head towards the nearest border. In the case of Rwanda the nearest borders would be Zaire, Uganda, Tanzania, and Burundi. The refugee population (from Rwanda) in these countries are: Zaire 1,065,000, Uganda 4,000, Tanzania 603,000, Burundi 231,000. Refugee camps are placed in Tanzania (only one in Benaco camp), Burundi (only one), and Zaire (has two in Bukavu, and Goma). The UNHCR has aided in the crises in Rwanda with emergency assistance in the last few years. The next form of assistance the UNHCR has to offer is care and maintenance. This is implemented after the emergency phase of an operation. Care and maintenance covers the basic needs of the refugee population. In 1993 the expenditures for care and maintenance was 215.7 million dollars.
Recently there has been a preference for voluntary repatriation as a solution to the problem of refugees. This shift began in the 70's and by the eighties the best-seen solution to the refugees problem was volunteer repatriation, allowing them to " freely choosing to go back to their homeland and to assume all the rights and obligations of the resident population." 5. One of the strategies used in Rwanda to bring about repatriation was a confidence building mechanism. The government of Rwanda declared that the refugees returning home would be greeted with conditions of safety, and dignity, as well as right to their full property rights. The UNHCR established transit and relief camps in Rwanda as a way to help the refugees returning get re-adjusted. The monitoring of human rights in Rwanda was set up all over the country including prisons. The fact that they were set up in prisons is very important due to the fact that " by June 1995, seven prisoners in every 10,000 were dying everyday " 6. At that rate in no time at all the whole prison population would die from overpopulation, disease and violence. There was an improvement of security at the refugee camps in the neighboring states. This was done in the hope of preventing the refugees from being intimidated to not return home. Most importantly an international tribunal was created in November of 1994 to prosecute the people that were responsible for the genocide in Rwanda. The UNHCR with the help of other non-governmental organizations (NGO'S) pressured the UN into creating an international tribunal. The tribunal was created in the hope to achieve justice for the victims of genocide. Also, if the people responsible for the mass genocide that occurred were held responsible then the refugees would return back to their homes. If the refugees returning home all returned home at once this would lead to disaster as well. Rwanda is not prepared for the return of all its citizens that have fled. It has to be done slowly in small numbers so that the safe return of Rwandans to their homes can be assured. Volunteer repatriation has brought refugees the right not only to seek asylum in another state but also have the right to return home at their own will.

In situations where voluntary repatriation is not obtainable local settlement in that country is the next best solution for the refugee. UNHCR provides the asylum seeker assistance in becoming socially, economically and legally self-sufficient in that country. This is provided through programs that teach people in different areas how to integrate. If it were a rural area they would be taught about agriculture, cottage industries, small enterprise development and ...

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Keywords: the rwandan refugee crisis, what caused the rwandan refugee crisis, where did rwandan refugees flee to, what are the causes of refugee crisis, what is the refugee crisis, why is the refugee crisis a problem

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