Editor's Comment

Refugees are human too

PRESIDENT Lungu is in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, an annual and high level event that brings together nations at a global level to share on issues that affect the world.
President Lungu is expected to co-chair a session with his Slovenian counterpart, Mr Borut Pahor tomorrow on “Addressing drivers of migration, particularly, large movements and highlighting the positive contribution of migrants.”
According to the United Nations, the General Assembly seeks to address large movements of refugees and migrants, with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach.
It is the first time the General Assembly has called for a summit at the Heads of State and Government level on large movements of refugees and migrants, making a historic opportunity to come up with a blueprint for a better international response.
On his departure for New York, President Lungu said Zambia is well-placed to share with the rest of the world the importance of peace and handling the migrant and refugee crisis.
The President said he will showcase Zambia’s impressive record of peace and hosting of refugees if he gets a chance to address the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York.
President Lungu is right, especially that the General Assembly is seen as a watershed moment to strengthen governance of international migration and a unique opportunity for creating a more responsible, predictable system for responding to large movements of refugees and migrants.
The issue of migration, particularly due to conflict has become a global issue, affecting almost every country in the world. In most cases, because of the nature, these movements are unplanned for.
Those who migrate, in seeking refugee as they flee from war torn areas, or conflict, head for places they deem safe, whether they are welcome or not.
In some cases, the refugees flee on account of economic and social reasons and find themselves in search of ‘greener pastures’ elsewhere.
As they flee, the refugees who once had comfortable homes and enjoyed a better life lose everything. They leave all they had laboured for and some of them lose their status as they cross borders.
In running away from their homes, their family life is disrupted and they have to start all over again if they are resettled by the recipient country.
Sometimes they are not welcome to places they flee to. These are situations we have seen a number of times.
As incoming General Assembly President Peter Thomson of the Republic of Fiji observed, the link between sustainable development, peace and security, and human rights has never been more explicit now than before.
Speaking when he opened the 71st General Assembly on Tuesday, the former permanent representative of Fiji to UN regretted the evidence of widespread lack of empathy for people on the move, many of whom are fleeing from conflict, persecution, or climate change.
He said it was time to turn down the rhetoric of intolerance and ratchet up a collective response based on our common humanity.
A collective response is indeed needed to tackle the challenge posed in by the migration and displacement of innocent people.
Sustainable development can only be feasible when people, wherever they are, have stable lives. In this way, they will also be able to contribute to development.
But the sustenance of this development presupposes the prevalence of peace so that people can live in an atmosphere where their abilities to give out their best are not prevented.
This call could also not have come at a better time than now. It is time we realised that as nations, though we are divided by artificial borders, we share a common humanity which deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.
The migration of refugees and other displaced victims is one matter Zambia has ably handled. Zambia has been host to a number of people from our neighbouring countries displaced by war or conflict.
Zambia has carried out this onerous responsibility almost immediately the country attained its independence in 1964. Zambia has hosted refugees from countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda.
This hosting of refugees, coupled with the peace the nation enjoys, has earned Zambia a good name abroad and it is therefore not surprising that the country is tasked to co-chair a meeting on this subject.
Zambia certainly has something to contribute to the well-being of the world and President Lungu is best-placed to lead the way.

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