FORMER RWANDAN REFUGEES LIVING IN ZAMBIA : A LEGAL PERSPECTIVE TO THEIR PLIGHT.

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WHAT IS ” LOCAL INTEGRATION ” ?

Local integration refers to the settlement of refugees with full legal rights in the country to which they have fled. It is one of the durable solutions for refuges.

Local integration is a complex and gradual process which comprises distinct but related legal, economic, social and cultural dimensions and imposes considerable demands on both the individual and the receiving society.

Refugees are granted a progressively wider range of rights and entitlements by the host state in local integration.

Under the terms of the 1951 Refugee Convention, refugees are given the right to seek employment, to engage in other income-generating activities, to own and dispose of property, to enjoy freedom of movement and to have access to public services such as education.

WHAT THE GOVERNMENT OF ZAMBIA HAS OFFERED.

The Zambian Government has taken into consideration all the concerns raised by Former Rwandan Refugees.

They have exhausted all the channels needed for these said refugees to be locally integrated.

It is “judicial notice” that most if not all Former Rwandan Refugees had no intention of returning home.

This in itself was a challenge and various reasons advanced by these Former Refugees were examined by competent authorities before any decision was made.

However,the law must be abided by if there needs to be a real durable solution.

SHOULD FORMER RWANDAN REFUGEES GET RWANDAN PASSPORTS?

APPEAL PROCESS.

International legal protection of refugees centres on a person meeting the criteria for refugee status as laid down in the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Under Article 1 (A)2, the term “refugee” shall apply to any person who:

“…owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

Using the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention as its major tool, UNHCR’s core mandate is to ensure the international protection of Refugees and Asylum-seekers worldwide.

It promotes the basic human rights of refugees and that they will not be returned involuntarily to a country where they face persecution.

It helps them to repatriate to their homeland when conditions permit, integrate into states of asylum or resettle in third countries.

UNHCR promotes international refugee agreements, helps states establish asylum structures and acts as an international watchdog over refugee issues.

CHALLENGES.

The Former Rwandan Refugees have demanded that the Rwandan Passport be not a proviso before one qualifies for Zambian immigration permits due to the political volatility in Rwanda which makes it very difficult for the aforementionned to be under the umbrella of a Government they do not trust.

However,the Zambian High Commissioners for Refugees’ Office is bound by law to examine individual Former Rwandan Refugees cases and this can only be done by tracing their identity using the National Passports of their Country of Origin.

Every Foreign National living in Zambia is mandated by Zambian Immigration Laws to be in possession of a valid National Passport.

The appeal process was open to all Former Rwandan Refugees to give reasons why they did not want to go home.The process is still ongoing and those who still feel that the ” well-founded fear of being persecuted ” that led them to seek refuge in Zambia is still present may visit the relevant authorities(with Legal Counsel of their choice if they so wish) and explain why their refugee status ought to be returned.

THE RWANDAN PASSPORT ISSUE.

The Former Rwandan Refugees deny that changes as claimed by the Rwandan Government have taken place and regard the Tripartite Agreement as a strategy of the Rwandan Government to bring them back to Rwanda to be under control because they are considered as potential opponents of the Rwandan State.

Since the signing of the Agreement in 2003,only 300 out of the 6000 Former Rwandan Refugees in Zambia have returned home to Rwanda. In December 2011,the UNHCR decided that refugees leaving Rwanda after 1998 till the present should be granted legal protection and Refugee status therefore,Rwanda is to date still a refugee producing country.

Nevertheless,acquiring Rwandan Passports is SINE QUO NON for local integration to take place and Zambia as a Government cannot interfere with Rwanda’ s internal politics. “Comity” between the two states ought to be maintained as Zambia has entered into various bilateral treaties with Rwanda which must be safeguarded as one Zambian Authority put it.

The fact that these concerns are in the “public domain” means that the Rwandan case will be treated as a peculiar one.

MY LEGAL ADVICE TO FORMER RWANDAN REFUGEES.

Refugee protection is an individual endeavour.Doors are still open for those who meet the criteria.Should your case be determined to be “solid”,you will be exempted and your refugee status will equally be reinstated.

As for others who have no real case to plead,kindly acquire Rwandan Passports for the purpose of local integration.

The UNHCR will cater for the expenses that will follow(viz various immigration permits that will be distributed in the process).

NB : Those who will not take advantage of these two solutions will remain in a “LIMBO”.They will be deemed “stateless” and risk to be deported since they will no longer be a concern of both the UNHCR and Zambian Government.

I will conclude with these two adages;

“Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.”

Mahatma Gandhi.

They say;

” The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ” ignorance ” : It is the ” illusion ” of knowledge .”

WE KILL THE IGNORANCE , WE KILL THE ENEMY.

Lionel Nishimwe(LLB,Hons.)

Founding President of “The ASSOCIATION FOR RWANDAN REFUGEES IN ZAMBIA-NEW HOPE FOR RWANDA”.

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