The following opening remarks were made by the South African Minister of Home Affairs, Ms. GNM Pandor, during the UNHCR meeting on the Implementation of the Comprehensive Durable Solutions Strategy, and provides South Africa’s perspective on the ‘ceased circumstances’ cessation clauses for Rwandan refugees.
18 April 2013
Director for the Africa Bureau Mr George Okoth Obbo,
Director Division for International Protection Mr Volker Turk,
Attendance of Ministers still to be confirmed by UNHCR,
Members of the media,
May I take this opportunity on behalf of President Jacob Zuma, the government and people of South Africa, to welcome you all to South Africa, and to be the City of Tshwane. This meeting of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is aimed primarily at discussing the implementation of the Comprehensive Durable Solutions Strategy including the applicability of the ‘ceased circumstances’ cessation clauses for the Rwandan refugees who fled their home country during pre-1998 unrests.
The implementation of the Comprehensive Durable Solutions Strategy, including the applicability of the ‘ceased circumstances’ cessation clauses for the Rwandan refugees, must be viewed as an effort of the international community to help the Rwandan refugees to find closure in their quest for state protection and as part of the effort to rebuild that country, following years of war and conflict.
All these efforts by the international community and countries hosting Rwandan refugees should be viewed as an unequivocal statement that the people of Rwanda, like the rest of humanity, across the world, have an inalienable right to peace, freedom and democracy.
The whole world witnessed the atrocities that occurred in Rwanda in 1994, the suffering endured by the people of that country, particularly women and children as well as the destruction of almost the entire infrastructure, as a consequence of ethnic clashes, and other inter-ethnic conflicts preceding the 1994 genocide.
In this regard, the people of Rwanda and the international community should ensure that never again does Rwanda or any other country in the world witness a resurgence of ethnic violence of the kind endured by the people of Rwanda.
This august gathering should do everything in its power to ensure that the 60th UNHCR Executive Committee recommendations on the cessation clause for the Rwandan refugees are implemented in line with the flexibilities and recommendations of the December 2011 meeting in Geneva that took place on the margins of the Intergovernmental Ministerial event. The December 2011 meeting held with host States validated the Comprehensive Durable Solutions Strategy and further affirmed that repatriation and local integration remain the core solutions for the Rwandan refugee population under discussion.
South Africa is firmly committed to ensuring the fulfillment of its international obligations towards refugees and asylum seekers in terms of its ratification of the relevant international protocols. This we do both in letter and spirit.
However, our government believes any implementation of the Comprehensive Durable Solutions Strategy should at the very least ensure the protection of the rights of returning persons. That a person desiring alternative status is afforded such opportunities upon freely and voluntarily resuming the protection of their country of origin through re-acquiring citizenship of their country of birth.
This is the manner in which South Africa intends implementing the cessation clause for Angolan refugees most of whom we expect will voluntary return to Angola or seek to remain in South Africa under our Immigration laws which necessarily require the resumption of Angolan nationality by such persons.
Any recommendation to declare cessation of refugees and asylum seekers status should provide some level of guarantee on prevailing peace and stability in the country of origin. Indeed, peace, security and stability is a precursor to any implementation of the Comprehensive Durable Solutions Strategy.
The position of the UNHCR in relation to Rwanda has created anguish and uncertainty among the refugee community in South Africa. As such it appears as though much work requires to be done on the part of the UNHCR to clearly articulate the reasons for the cessation declaration among the affected refugee community. Much work requires to be done and the looming date for cessation, 30 June 2013, merely serves to add to the general anxiety among the affected communities. One pertinent question that has arisen with my own interaction with representatives of the Rwandan Refugee community is the declaration of cessation is not to be applied to Rwandans who fled the country after 1998. This they point out is a tacit admission that there exist conditions in Rwanda that would force people to seek asylum.
These questions require attention and discussion by us all and we look forward to hearing from our sister countries and also learning from the UNHCR about its own programme in this regard.
We therefore welcome the decision by the UNHCR to invite Member States to a Ministerial Meeting to discuss matters pertaining to progress in the implementation of the Comprehensive Durable Solutions Strategy for Rwandan Refugees. We hope that during this gathering valuable information and experiences will be shared that will enrich the process aimed at finding durable solution to the Rwandan refugee problem.
We are committed as government, to working together with all other role-players and stakeholders in the international community, to ensure that the recommended actions of the Comprehensive Durable Solutions Strategy are considered further for actual implementation of the cessation clause for Rwandan refugees.
I take this opportunity, once again on behalf of the government and people of our country, to extend our best wishes to you all in your deliberations on this very important issue of the Implementation of the Comprehensive Durable Solutions Strategy for Rwandan refugees and indeed assure you of our continued support and commitment.
I thank you.