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.
The refugee status of Former Rwandan Refugees in Zambia was terminated against their wishes on 30th June 2013.The Tripartite Agreement of 2003 between the Governments of Zambia,Rwanda and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees(UNHCR) was made through the initiative of the Rwandan Government which claimed to have made essential and enduring changes towards peace and stability thereby making the Rwandan Refugee Status under the 1951 Geneva and 1969 OAU Conventions no longer necessary.The Rwandan Former Refugees were told that they should return home because their fears of persecution were no longer credible.
In the first week of October 2013,a Zambian Government delegation visited the UNHCR Office in Geneva where they met representatives of some donor countries who offered substantial assistance with the integration of 4000 Rwandan Former Refugees.The Rwandan Former 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.
FORMER RWANDAN REFUGEES CONCERNS.
The Former Rwandan Refugees deny that such 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.
WHY RWANDA IS NOT YET SAFE TO BE CALLED HOME.
Despite broad Former Rwandan Refugees opposition to what in effect is compulsory repatriation,the Zambian High Commissioners for Refugees’ Office has decided to facilitate the Rwandan Government’s wish that all Rwandan exiles should return home.Until very recently,they have made it impossible for local integration or resettlement as alternative and durable solutions.
In French they say,”Les faits sont têtus.”
Below are some crucial facts why Former Rwandan Refugees would rather die than return to Rwanda.
1.”In 1996, the United Nations told the world that they could not find the whereabouts of well over 500,000 Hutu refugees in Congo. The statement was so casual and flippant, it sounded like someone who cannot find their car keys or a piece of earring. The statement was so casual and flippant, it sounded like someone who cannot find their car keys or a piece of earring.”-Darius Murinzi.
Spanish investigative judge Andreu Merelles indicted Gen Karake in 2008 for alleged war crimes, along with 39 other current or former high-ranking Rwandan military officials. Paul Kagame is likely to evade the juridiction of the Spanish Court due to his shield of ‘presidential immunity’ which he will maintain at all costs even if it means using unconstitutional means to change to constitution to allow him and his ‘ABEGA’ minions to cling on to power at the expense of ordinary poor Rwandans.
Karenzi Karake was detained at London’s Heathrow Airport on Saturday, in response to a European Arrest Warrant. General Karake is accused by Spain of ordering massacres in the wake of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. All accusations General Karake is facing include:
(I).Accused of ordering massacres after the 1994 genocide while head of military intelligence,
(II).Wanted for genocide, crimes against humanity and terrorism,
(III).Accused of ordering the killing of Spanish aid workers in 1997.
(IV).He is accused of killing ethnic Hutu civilians in both Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, after the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) came to power in 1994.
Long before this in 1994, the RPF ravaged the northern part of Rwanda, killing thousands of Hutus on its way, and forced over a million people into internally displaced camps to die of diseases, hunger, and miserable conditions that are prevalent in these types of places.
Why should Former Rwandan Refugees return to be governed by a regime that glorifies KILLERS?
This MURDERER is viewed as a FREEDOM FIGHTER in Rwanda.
2.The Arrests of Peter Erlinder(A Prominent American International Lawyer),Victoire Umuhoza Ingabire (A Lawyer and 2010 Presidential Aspiring Candidate) and Kizito(A famous orphan musician whose songs included reconciliatory messages) because of having a different political opinion and demanding that the Government recognises the deaths of the ‘Hutu’ who also perished in the 1994 clearly confirms that Rwanda still has a long way to go where democracy and reconciliation are concerned.Hence,the ‘justified fear’ still instilled in former Rwandan Refugees in Zambia to return to Rwanda.
After leaving in the Zambian climate where these Former Rwandan Refugees are allowed to freely express themselves,going back to a totalitarian state is tantamount to sending them to hell.Their inalienable freedom of expression cannot be guaranteed in Rwanda.
OUR APPEAL TO THE ZAMBIAN GOVERMENT.
We strongly appeal to the Zambian Government to lobby the UNHCR to promote the resettlement of Former Rwandan Refugees in Zambia as “Persons of Special Concern” because that is what they really are.
This is because under Zambian Law,a Rwandan Passport is a document that affirms foreign nationality and for Former Rwandan Refugees,the “Rwandan Passport” is a travel document potentially taking them back to Rwanda by renouncing their fear of persecution,affirming Rwanda to be peaceful and removing their international protection.
(LEGAL ASSISTANT/LEARNER LEGAL PRACTITIONNER AT Lionel Nishimwe & Ngandu Consultancy