Rwanda: Including refugees

and statelessness in the

population census


Rwanda hosts significant numbers of refugees, with many of them residing in the country for decades. The country also has populations effected by or at risk of statelessness for a variety of reasons including those associated with their migratory history, cross-border communities and nationality laws and associated administrative procedures.

 Demonstrated by adherence to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions, 1951 Refugee Convention, 1967 Additional protocol and the 1969 Organisation of African Unity Convention, Rwanda’s commitment to eliminate statelessness and enable the inclusion of refugees is clear. Moreover, as expressed through public pledges made in the context of both regional and international conferences, the Government has concretized these commitments into national policies that create a favorable environment for the protection and socio-economic integration of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as safeguarding children from statelessness. [1]

Improved national statistics on refugees and statelessness have therefore become a priority for the Government and the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR). Work to modernize and strengthen its civil registration system falls within this scope, as do efforts to include relevant populations in the 5th Rwanda Population and Housing Census (RPHC-5). 


Refugees Population Age Structure

Source: 2022 Population and Housing Census, NISR

Population and Housing Census

The RPHC-5, conducted in August 2022, is a pivotal project aligned with the third National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSDS3) in Rwanda. The census form incorporated questions related to the country of origin/birth, duration of stay in the country, nationality, and ID documents, enabling the inclusion of refugees and stateless individuals.

Alongside the Government of Rwanda’s commitment to address statelessness, several factors contributed to a successful census including the active engagement of stakeholders such as the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration (DGI&E), the Ministry of Emergency and Management (MINEMA), the National ID Agency, the Human Rights Commission and local government authorities, as well as various regional and international partners. Comprehensive awareness campaigns, quality training and the use of technologies to facilitate data collection were also key. The participation of stateless persons and refugees at different stages was crucial.

Results, published in December 2023, enable the comparison of refugees to the national population and cover both demographic and socio-economic statistics. They show that refugees constitute 1% of the population, with 71% of them aged below 30, and present important findings concerning access to medical insurance, improved drinking water and primary and secondary school. A thematic report is under development; however, data is already available. [2]

The dissemination of census results was conducted at national and sub-national levels (Provinces and districts) to facilitate their use for decision-making, supported by 30 district profiles. [3] 18 thematic reports and a census population atlas have also been produced. [4]

Findings on the stateless population however are more limited. Given the intricacies of fully identifying stateless populations in Rwanda, census results show “hot spot” areas where possible stateless populations reside. An additional mini census will be conducted in these areas to deepen the understanding of statelessness and inform policy implementation.

“Complete, reliable, timely and internationally comparable statistics concerning forcibly displaced persons are essential to facilitating their inclusion in national systems and improving their living conditions. Everyone counts. Let’s get them counted”.

– Venant Habarugira, Director of Censuses Department, National Institute of Statistics Rwanda (NISR)

The use of the International Recommendations

The NISR leveraged the International Recommendations on Refugee Statistics (IRRS) and the draft International Recommendations on Statelessness Statistics (IROSS) to include relevant identification questions in the census. In addition, these frameworks have served as guidance to provide a demographic disaggregation of the census indicators by refugee status, enabling better harmonization of data.

Rwanda’s active involvement in the development of the IROSS as a member of the EGRISS, contributed to the commitment of the inclusion of statelessness in the census. Moreover, Rwanda’s experience contributes to validate the Recommendations’ content concerning the potential of censuses to identify likelihood of statelessness as opposed to specifically identifying this population.

Indicators for Refugees and Rwanda’s population

Source: 2022 Rwanda Population and Housing Census, NISR


The inclusion of refugees and statelessness in the RPHC-5 was successful due to the commitment of the Government, leadership, and capacity of NISR and collaboration with key stakeholders. The case presents a concrete example of implementation of the International Statistical Recommendations. Results will inform national and sub-national policies related to the socio-economic inclusion and wellbeing of refugees and will inform further analytical work on statelessness.