ARTHUR MWANSA, Lusaka
MINISTER of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo says Government has restored the refugee status of 400 former Rwandan refugees who were affected by the Cessation Clause.
And Mr Kampyongo is disappointed that after three years of joint Government and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) investment local integration programme, only 41 out of 4,200 former Rwandan refugees have so far obtained their national passports.
Mr Kampyongo said because of resistance from some Rwandan refugees to comply with conditions for reintegration, which requires them to obtain Rwandan passports, Government with the support of the UNHCR, conducted exemption interviews to ascertain the validity of requests for the restoration of the refugee status.
He said this yesterday when he officially opened a two-day workshop on legal aspects of local integration and the legal framework for refugee protection in Zambia.
â€œOf the 4,200 who were affected by the Cessation Clause and accordingly interviewed, only 400 individuals had completed reasons for the restoration of their refugee status.
â€œThese individuals have since had their refugee status restored in line with the UNHCR exemption procedures,â€ he said.
Mr Kampyongo said the 400 Rwandans would continue enjoying their refugee status as provided for in the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) conventions of 1951 and 1969, respectively.
He said 25 of the 41 former Rwandan refugees who had obtained their national passports from their government have since been issued with resident permits, while 16 permits are being processed by the Department of Immigration.
He said it is unfortunate that the former Rwandan refugees, who were a security concern, had been resisting the legal requirement of obtaining their national passports from Rwanda.
He said Government is also grappling with how to humanely address the legal status of over 3,000 former Rwandan refugees currently living in Zambia illegally.
â€œI am however, confident that the rare mix of participants from across our continent and from countries as geographically far apart as Tanzania and Ghana, for example, could help provide answers to resolving the legal status of the former Rwandan refugees,â€ Mr Kampyongo said.
UNHCR country representative Laura Lo Castro said she found it inspiring to work in a peaceful country like Zambia.
She said the international environment has seen an increase in xenophobia, discrimination, closure of borders and threats of walls being erected to prevent free movement of people.
Ms Lo Castro said Zambia is a good example of the right to asylum and protection of people fleeing persecution.
ARTHUR MWANSA, Lusaka