Rwandan Returnees Given Smart Cash for Re-Integration

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 By Daniel Sabiiti

DRC refugees in Nyabiheke queue for food allowance loaded onto their smart cards. The initiative gives returnees freedom to make their own choices on what they would like to eat or buy.

UNHCR- Rwanda signed a partnership with Airtel and I&M Bank to electronically disburse funds directly to at least 20.000 Rwandan returnees for their daily needs and integration.

Upon returning each of the returnees will receive debit card money depending on age. Adults and the elderly will get $250, while the young ones will walk away with $150 per month to take care of their needs.

The new pre-paid cash cards will have an electronic chip containing information about the holder, including biographical details. The returnees will also receive food for three months from the World Food programme (WFP).

UNHCR officials believe that with issuance of smart cards will help against fraud and to maximize the integrity of refugee’s documentation and support programmes.

Over 20,000 Rwandan refugees, mostly from sub-Sahara Africa are expected to return to Rwanda after a cessation clause was extended to end of 2017.

The returnees will be added to the list of beneficiaries of direct financial support aimed reintegrating returnees in the community with essential household tools like saucepans and plates.

Most of the returnees have made it home with the help of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and government mobilization programmes on radio, TV and family interventions.

The financial support comes after UNHCR Rwanda signed a partnership with one local telecoms (Airtel) and commercial bank (I&M Bank) to directly disburse funds electronically provide refugees with debit cards holding$250, a month to use for their daily needs.

Initially, the UNHCR direct finance support programme was designed in a way that refugees and returnees get monthly stipend through camp official, but the latter abused the provision embezzling the designated funds.

Over 3.5million Rwandan refugee returnees who have since the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi returned home, after a massive displacement into exile which started in 1959 due to political turmoil dubbed “Hutu revolution” and peaked during the genocide.

For example in September 2016 several Congolese refugees in Kigeme camp couldn’t access their monthly facilitation after two camp officials stole Rwf2million in the mobile money transfer program that has been previously used to send the money.

UNHCR has since replaced the earlier plan with advanced cash transfer mechanism through banks such as Equity bank, and now I&M bank.

Saber Azam, UNHCR representative in Rwanda said that the funding for Rwandan returnees will close with this year and the funds will be solicited in accordance to the returning numbers.

“After this year, there will not be any reason for a Rwandan to be a refugee since the country is peaceful,” Azam said.

I&M bank CEO, Robin Bairstow says that beneficiaries’ accounts have already been opened and there return home will add value to the economy and community development.

“It is a definite opportunity for returnees to be financially included. They will be able to benefit from other government programs” Bairstow said.

The cashless money solution and development has been introduced in three refugee camps of Nyabiheke, Kigeme and Gihembe out of the six official refugee camps in Rwanda. The three camps host 49,000 refugees out of the 164,300 Congolese and Burundian refugees in Rwanda.

By 2016 almost 65 million people were reported to be displaced around the world, and UNHCR has a task to maintain their safety especially in refugee camps, as the numbers keep increasing each day.

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