Rwanda has begun issuing refugees with international travel documents that will ease their movements across borders.
The Minister for Refugee Affairs Ms De Bonheur Jeanne d’Arc told refugees at a launch ceremony in Kigali on Wednesday that the new documents would allow them to “move freely around the globe, except to your country of origin.”
“We recognise your rights to free movement. Start planning to do business abroad and take up any opportunity. It’s in our government’s agenda to ease your stay here but also to help you get better living conditions whenever they are available,” she said.
The machine-readable convention travel document (MRCTD) serves as a passport for refugees and is issued by a country that is party to the 1954 Geneva Convention to facilitate the travel of a stateless person.
The government is issuing the travel documents jointly with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Ahmed Baba Fall, the UNHCR representative in Rwanda, said the new documents “will facilitate the wellbeing of refugees, allowing refugees to take up opportunities for resettlement and enabling them to access opportunities provided through complementary pathways for admission to other countries.”
At the ceremony on Wednesday, five refugees received the new passports.
The Directorate of Immigration said some 20,000 passports are ready to be issued to eligible seekers.
Patrice Ntadohoka, a refugee in Kigali, welcomed the issuance of the MRCTDs saying it would unlock many opportunities.
“For us refugees, we have no home. We’re looking for opportunity everywhere but it was always an impediment not being able to travel freely seeking for jobs to earn a living, seeking medical treatment or vising our relatives that got asylum elsewhere,” he said.
“Now that the MRCTD is available, am happy that our chances to explore new opportunities and get employed are enhanced,” he added.
Rwanda hosts more than 150,000 refugees mainly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Director General of Immigration and Emigration, Anaclet Kalibata, said the new documents conform to the standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which require travellers to carry machine readable identity documents.
The 32-page document will contain biometric data and security features.
Applicants will be required to hand in an application letter addressed to the Director General of Immigration and Emigration, a recommendation letter from the refugee camp manager or a local administrative official for those living outside camps, proof of registration or valid refugee identity card and Rwf10,000 ($12) fee.
The new refugee passport will be valid for a period of five years.
In August, Rwanda started issuing refugees with identity cards, replacing the ‘proof of registration’ documents. The ID cards allow them to move freely within the country and access social services and jobs.