There are approximately 10,000 urban refugees, most of whom arrived during the Burundi emergency influx in 2015 or since, as well as a smaller population of Congolese and a few other nationalities. Unlike the camp population, the urban refugee population do not receive blanket assistance. The assistance is limited to protection (documentation, community-based protection, child protection and GBV), health (CBHI) and exceptional financial assistance (EFA) which is targeted to urban refugees in dire need, in order to try and prevent the need for transferring refugees to the camp, where they would be fully dependent on humanitarian aid.. There is one community center in Kigali and one in Huye where UNHCR and implementing partners can meet people of concern and offer a range of services.
Given the urban population is spread out, communication is challenging despite the increasing methods of communication (including bulk SMS and WhatsApp trees) among other traditional methods. With COVID-19, urban refugees have been severely impacted as many have lost their income/jobs. In line with UNHCR strategy of alternative to camps; therefore, the priorities are to continue support the vulnerable urban people of concern, particularly families with school-age children, persons with specific needs and other at-risk groups who have been affected by socio-economic impact of COVID-19. In 2021, the operation will continue to provide EFA for the most vulnerable people of concern as well as those who cannot afford 10% of the medical bills of CBHI.
Access to education for children and youth, and facilitation of sustainable self-reliance through livelihood opportunities for adults will intensify in 2021. A key pillar of the urban strategy is also to continue boosting community-based protection mechanisms and structures; the community outreach volunteer network should be scaled up in 2021 and working more seamlessly with the refugee leaders, with the aim of stronger gender and diversity representation, as currently female representation remains low. UNHCR will continue to work to ensure that most vulnerable refugees are identified and linked to relevant services and conduct monitoring to ensure refugees do not face discrimination.
Regarding access to asylum, advocacy to and capacity building of the national RSD committee and other entities such as Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration is critical. Advocacy will be needed to ensure proper reception, screening, and identification of PoC (including non-African asylum seekers) and to ensure asylum space in maintained. Outreach, feedback, and complaint mechanisms will also be reinforced to facilitate direct contact with people of concern and reinforce accountability. UNHCR will continue to strengthen the capacity of the two legal aid partners and expand network of operational partners regarding access to asylum. In 2020 cash assistance was scaled up in all the camps and the ETM, and overall provision of non-food items including soap and sanitary pads will be provided.