Rwanda has issued more than 2,500 identity cards to refugees in the country to enable them move freely and access social services and jobs.
The Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (Midimar) said it has dispensed some 2,760 cards to mainly Burundian and some Congolese refugees.
Midimar said the IDs will enable the refugees open bank accounts and invest in Rwanda.
“All refugees are being considered in this exercise and IDs will continue to be issued. It will enable them get services that they would not easily get as refugees and be able to live normal lives and enjoy their freedom in Rwanda,” Jeanne d’Arc De Bonheur, the Midimar minister said.
The ID issuance began on Thursday after the conclusion of a joint refugee verification exercise to capture biometric data by the government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Ahmed Baba Fall, the UNHCR Representative to Rwanda, said the verification, which began in February, was complete in Kigali, Huye and Gihembe camps but is ongoing in Nyabiheke and Mahama.
Mr Fall said the Rwandan government has been supportive and committed to empowering the refugees hosted across the country.
“This is just the first phase of giving IDs and our aim is to make sure that all of them get one,” he said.
Refugees have been using a “proof of registration” document in place of IDs to be able to travel within the country. However, the document does not allow them to access public services and employment.
“We had to be careful moving around Rwanda without IDs because we feared getting in trouble with the authorities. Now, we will be able to move freely and even travel to other countries if we want to and return. They also said they will give us medical insurance cards,” Latifah Nahimana, a Burundian refugee said in an interview.
In 2016, Rwanda committed to include refugees in its national health insurance scheme and integrate the refugee children in its education system.
The country hosts more than 172,000 refugees from Burundi (53 per cent) and Democratic Republic of Congo (46 per cent).