More than 9,000 Rwandan refugees in Malawi are hesitant to return home following the call by the Rwandan government to have all Rwandan refugees repatriated.
Local reports indicate that only 400 Rwandan refugees have accepted to be deported, even after the December deadline issued by the Rwandan Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees Affairs (RMDMRA) lapsed four days ago.
In the 2016 announcement, the ministry had warned that those refugees who will not have gone back home by the end of December 2017 risked having their refugee status revoked.
“By December 31, 2017, any Rwandan who won’t be home will not be considered as a refugee and neither the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs nor UNHCR will afford to help them repatriate after that date,” RMDMRA’s minister, Seraphine Mukantabana was quoted by New Times.
Her statement was also echoed by UNHCR’s Rwandan representative, Saber Azam, who assured Rwandan refugees living in foreign countries that the situation back home was stable and safe for their return.
He also warned that the repatriation and resettlement allowances won’t be available for those who will miss the deadline.
“The situation in Rwanda at the moment is perfect. Refugees should come back home. There won’t be postponement of the cessation clause,” warned Azam.
Afraid to Return
Authorities in Malawi believe the refugees are reluctant to return home due to fear of being victimized and prosecuted for their roles in the deadly genocide that happened in 1994.
But many of the genocide perpetrators have so far been pardoned in an effort to reconcile communities and households in Rwanda. Last year, the Rwandan government pardoned 21 convicts of the deadly genocide with the promise that they will assist in the search for the remains of their victims.
Other refugees may be afraid to return home because they’ve already established a new life in their host countries, while some fear that going back home might bring back painful memories of the war.
The genocide, which took place between April and July 1994, left close to one million people dead, most of them Tutsis and moderate Hutus.