Refugees in Rwanda will soon have a chance to work, open a bank account, access government services and move more freely, thanks to a new initiative launched by the government and the U.N. refugee agency.
Rwanda and UNHCR on Wednesday began a program to verify refugees' identities in order to collect accurate and updated information about the country's population of refugees and asylum seekers.
"[Wednesday's] launch starts with more than 30,000 urban refugees living in Kigali city," De Bonheur Jeanne, minister in charge of disaster management and refugees, told VOA's Central Africa service.
Officials say the exercise will help refugees by giving them greater access to identity documents, which will facilitate their access to government services and make it easier for them to travel and gain employment.
Emmanuel Ndayishimye, a refugee from Burundi, welcomed the decision.
"This is good news to us. With the ID, we will be able to move freely and be able to open bank accounts," Ndayishimye said.
The UNHCR says the exercise will lead to better refugee management, protection and assistance.
"This process will help us to know the socio-categories of refugees and help us better target the assistance we are giving them," Ahmed Baba Fall, UNHCR representative in Rwanda, told VOA.
Currently, 173,000 refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo live in Rwanda, according to the UNHCR.
Many of the Congolese refugees have been in Rwanda for more than two decades, living in camps where they are dependent upon humanitarian assistance. Late last year, food rations were reduced by 10 percent due to lack of funding.
"We continue to advocate for donor support. We still have refugees here and we need their support in terms of food and humanitarian assistance," said Baba Fall.
This week, the UNHCR and 26 other humanitarian partners launched an appeal for $391 million to support some 430,000 Burundian refugees across Africa during 2018.
Since 2015, more than 400,000 refugees and asylum-seekers have fled Burundi, escaping human rights abuses, continued political uncertainty, and the related humanitarian crisis.
VOA's Assumpta Kaboyi contributed to this report.