Wednesday, August 31, 2011

FAHAMU Statement on Rwandan Refugees

PLEASE ACT NOW: Sign-on to Statement Protecting Rwandan Refugees!

On 31 December 2011, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and several states hosting Rwandan refugees are considering invoking the “cessation clause” of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. This is a very unusual and dangerous move that could cause revocation of the refugee status of tens of thousands of people who fled ethnic and political persecution in Rwanda, stripping them of basic rights and exposing them to forcible repatriation and possible persecution. Cessation is premature and should be stopped.

But you can do something about it! Send the FAHAMU Refugee Programme an email indicating that you endorse the statement below. We will carry your views to the Executive Committee of UNHCR and representatives of its Member States at their annual meeting in Geneva from 3rd – 5th October.

Here’s the text:

We, the undersigned, oppose invocation of the “cessation clause” of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees with respect to Rwanda. Thousands of persons fled Rwanda and are currently seeking protection abroad. These are not people escaping retribution from the 1994 genocide; they are those who have been fleeing Rwanda since that event because of the instability, ethnic strife, arbitrary judicial procedures, indiscriminate retaliation, political violence, intolerance of dissent, impunity, and lack of accountability that has followed.

Cessation is a drastic measure that would strip refugees of their legal rights and expose them to forcible repatriation and the risk of further persecution. The Cessation Clause should only be invoked with extreme caution when there has been, according to the Guidelines of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 1) a fundamental and profound change in country conditions such that they no longer have a well-founded fear of persecution, 2) the change is demonstrably enduring and not merely transitory, and, 3) the change enables refugees to enjoy the protection of the government.

Rwanda has made much progress since the genocide but it has not done so through reliable democratic and peaceful means. It remains a fragile, volatile, authoritarian regime with little tolerance for dissent, freedom of speech, or independent human rights reporting. Social and political fissures remain unresolved and the Rwandan government maintains an overtly hostile attitude towards its citizens who have fled. Positive changes need time to consolidate and genuine national reconciliation remains untested. Moreover, since 2009, more Rwandans have been fleeing, not just Hutu, but large numbers of genocide survivors who were never refugees before, as well as officials of the Rwandan government and officers from its army. Now is not the time to revoke protection from Rwandan refugees!

Endorse Now! Send your name, job title, and organizational affiliation as you wish it to appear, along with your country of residence, to Barbara@fahamu.org. If you can endorse on behalf of your organization, church, business, union, or other civic group, let us know—that will be even more powerful! (Otherwise we will just list your affiliation “for identification only.”)

2 comments:

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