With support from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), JRS has been working with refugees in Rwanda since 1996, in response to the mass displacement in Masisi and Rutsuru in eastern Congo. With its country office in the western province of Kibuye, field staff work in Kiziba and Gihembe camps providing formal and informal education, and recreational activities, in what has become one of its longest running projects.
The main issue of concern for JRS in the country is the protracted situation of more than 53,000 Congolese refugees who have been living in camps for 17 years. Dependent on international aid, they find difficult to find a job or own land in what is the most densely populated African country.
In addition, the decision by the UN World Food Programme to reduce food assistance to the camps by 50 percent in 2011 caused much hardship among those in the most vulnerable circumstances, potentially inducing the refugees to return home, despite the insecurity in the villages of eastern Congo.
With the landslide re-election of Paul Kagame as president in 2010, Rwanda confirmed its status as most stable country in the region, albeit due to strict government control. This has guaranteed a high level of security in the country, even though political and media restrictions continue to be the focus of international criticism.
One example of these criticisms is the decision by the small landlocked nation to invoke the cessation clause for the 115,000 Rwandan refugees, many of whom fled the country in 1995 and live in Congo. Human rights organisations fear that if the clause is approved by UNHCR, refugees would be forced to return home and risk persecution and other serious violations.
Great Lakes Africa
+257 78991302; +243 (0)821778696; +250 782000940
JRS Great Lakes Africa is one of 10 geographic regions of the Jesuit Refugee Service, an international Catholic organization sponsored by the Society of Jesus. The regional office coordinates the delivery of education, housing, psychosocial and recreational services, as well emergency assistance and support to become self-sufficient, to vulnerable refugee and other displaced populations in Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2009, nearly 60,000 forcibly displaced persons were assisted by JRS in the region.
Rwanda: after 17 years along Congolese refugees, JRS withdraws from the country
Bujumbura, 15 March 2013 – In late January the Jesuit Refugee Service has closed its project in Rwanda after 17 years of accompaniment of the nearly 40,000 refugees from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, bringing an end some of the oldest JRS projects in world.
Rwanda: cutting food assistance to refugees could severely affect JRS projects
Bujumbura, 28 October 2011 – JRS has welcomed reports that the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has reversed cuts to the food rations for Congolese refugees as an important step towards the protection of basic human rights and the maintenance of public order in Kiziba and Gihembe camps.
Papua New Guinea
Democratic Republic of Congo
Katanga Province, DRC
United States of America
Central African Republic