The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) organized a cultural evening to commemorate World Refugee Day (WRD) 2017 with the Government of Rwanda Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR). The cultural evening is including celebrations in all refugee camps and a series of events for urban refugees in Kigali and Huye, based on the theme of refugee self-reliance.
Each year, UNHCR commemorates World Refugee Day around the world as a way of raising awareness about the situation of millions of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution.
This year in Rwanda, UNHCR marked the day with refugees all across the country, who today number almost 170,000 living in six camps and urban areas. People have been proud of honoring the talents, skills and contribution of refugees.
The event featured an exposition of refugee entrepreneurs and artisans who are owning businesses or producing high quality goods competitive in the national and even the international market.
After a performance of traditional dancing by Congolese urban refugees, a Congolese refugee youth, Mr. Dogon Nshimiyimana, provided a testimony about his life in Gihembe camp (Gicumbi) in Rwanda and his aspirations for his future now that he has been accepted and sponsored to pursue a Master’s degree with New York University in the United States.
Burundian refugees from Mahama Camp (Kirehe) then graced the catwalk, modelling Rwandan-designed clothing as they had done for the first time a few weeks prior when UNHCR and Rwandan designer Amedy Kamikaza partnered to include them in Kigali Fashion Week.
On behalf of Ambassador Barks-Ruggles, remarks acknowledge the contribution that refugees can make to their own community but also to the host community. “We are working to provide funding, technical assistance, and other resources that help refugee-hosting countries, such as Rwanda, to expand access to schools, healthcare systems, livelihoods opportunities, and local employment so that refugees can support themselves and their families and improve their own futures.”
“Although refugees are often vulnerable and living in difficult conditions, many refugees are also capable, skilled and visionary and manage to stand on their own feet to contribute to their communities and also to their host country—and we must honor and empower them,” said UNHCR Representative Saber Azam.
He further use this occasion to recognize and pay tribute to the contribution that refugees are making to the development of the host country, and said, “We cannot commemorate World Refugee Day without giving credit due to countries hosting refugees, particularly countries like Rwanda, which despite facing constraints in land continues to welcome refugees with open arms and goes as far as committing to include refugees in its national development agenda”.
Rwanda hosts Burundian refugees in Mahama camps since 2015, and Congolese in Gihembe, Nyabiheke, Mugombwa, Kigeme and Kiziba; where some have been there for more than fifteen years.
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Jean Baptiste Karegeya
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