Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 October 2016, 14:47 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - Zambia

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2005
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2005 - Zambia , 20 June 2005, available at: [accessed 25 October 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Refoulement/Asylum  In 2004, the Government detained and deported over 130 foreigners without granting them the opportunity to seek asylum. At least 20 of them were recognized refugees from Congo-Kinshasa, Burundi, or Rwanda. Seventy-one were of Somali background and may have had credible asylum claims.

The Refugee Control Act of 1970 (Refugee Act) did not specifically protect refugees from refoulement, though it forbade deportation in cases where the refugee would be at risk of physical attack or of punishment for an "offence of a political character." The Refugee Act granted broad discretion to authorized officers to deny asylum permits without justification, and authorized deportation of those failing to obtain permits within seven days of entry.

The Government recognized 4,300 persons from Congo-Kinshasa as prima facie refugees. The National Eligibility Committee (NEC) conducted individual refugee status determinations granting status to 77 out of 166 cases decided. Detained asylum seekers could request a second review by the NEC or appeal decisions to the Minister of Home Affairs, but they remained in detention during the appeal. The Government deported rejected asylum applicants detained at the time of the hearings. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) monitored the process and occasionally intervened on behalf of individual asylum seekers.

Detention  In 2004, the Government detained several hundred refugees and asylum seekers, though it was unclear whether they were charged with illegal entry or other non-criminal actions, such as leaving the camps without permission or working without a permit. The Government did not separate refugees in pre-trial detention from the general prison population, where there was severe overcrowding, extremely poor sanitation, and little food.

The Refugee Act entitled registered refugees to receive identity documents, but the Government did not issue them to refugees living in camps or rural settlements. About 5,000 urban refugees who legally registered in Lusaka received plastic identity cards but authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained at least 20 refugees with such cards. Immigration officials and police frequently harassed and detained refugees in urban areas and extorted bribes from those unable to produce valid documents.

Right to Earn a Livelihood  In the Mayukwayukwa and Meheba regions, which together hosted about 19,000 Angolan refugees at year's end, local chiefs allowed refugees to farm plots of 6 to 12 acres. Many no longer needed World Food Programme (WFP) rations, and some even produced surplus crops in maize, cassava, sweet potatoes, and sugar beans, which they sold on the open market. In Nangweshi, Kala, and Mwange camps, local authorities granted less land to refugees, but many still farmed while receiving WFP rations.

In camps and settlements, refugees also traded, worked on local farms or in villages, and did other piecemeal work. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) hired refugees at reduced salary levels set by UNHCR and the Government. Pay for nurses and teachers was $30 to $40 annually, about 20 to 30 percent of what nationals received. NGOs trained refugees in carpentry, bread-making, weaving, blacksmithing and other skills that generated some income but were intended primarily for use after repatriation.

The Immigration and Deportation Act of 1967 prohibited all foreigners, including refugees, from working, doing business, or studying at academic institutions without a permit. The law required refugees to apply for and obtain a job offer from an employer before they could receive a work permit, which cost $400. Many refugees in Nangweshi camp sought work as teachers or office workers, but employers categorically rejected them, erroneously thinking the law prohibited them from hiring refugees. Zambia maintained a reservation to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, stating that refugees would not be exempt from work permit requirements. It also maintained a reservation stating that refugees would be treated no more favorably than other foreigners in employment.

Refugees wishing to leave the camps to work in towns or urban areas risked detention and prosecution. Most urban refugees worked in the informal economy, selling items in local markets or on the streets. Due to their illegal residence status, many feared reporting crimes, including rapes and robberies.

The Government denied refugees the right to hold title to and transfer property, farmlands, business premises, or capital assets, but they could rent or hire these assets. Refugees had the right to bring actions in courts.

Freedom of Movement and Residence  The Government required nearly all refugees to reside in rural camps or settlements located in the west and north. At the end of the year, about 86,000 refugees from Angola and Congo-Kinshasa lived in five camps or settlements. In order to leave a settlement or camp, refugees had to obtain free "gate passes" from the camp administrator. Camp administrators granted passes liberally, but refugees in the Nangweshi camp sometimes had to wait several days for them. Refugees could obtain passes for a few weeks allowing travel to major towns, even Lusaka.

Zambia maintained a reservation to the 1951 Convention to allow it to designate where refugees could reside. The Government occasionally detained and prosecuted refugees for violations of the Refugee Act, which stated: "Any refugee who without a permit ... leaves or attempts to leave a refugee settlement in which he has been ordered to reside ... shall be guilty of an offence."

About 10,000 refugees lived in Lusaka and other urban areas without permits and with great difficulty obtaining work, housing, education, and healthcare. Immigration officers frequently detained refugees they caught without permits, and occasionally extorted bribes from them. The Government detained at least 30 recognized refugees in Lusaka prisons during the year for leaving camps or settlements without permits. Refugees could apply for international travel documents.

Public Relief and Education  UNHCR and its implementing partners provided rations, education, healthcare, and other basic assistance to refugees in the camps and settlements. In the Mayukwayukwa and Meheba settlements, refugees received significantly reduced rations and many received none at all as they were able to grow food.

In the camps and settlements, more than 90 percent of children attended primary school. Children in camps or settlements could apply for scholarships and permits to receive education above the primary level, though these scholarships were limited. Education permits cost $100. Refugees in urban areas received some assistance and education from Jesuit Refugee Services and YMCA. The Government allowed humanitarian agencies to assist refugees.

Other Developments  Nearly 47,000 Angolans repatriated from Zambia. Several times during the year, the Government announced that it was considering invoking the cessation clause of the 1951 Convention for Rwandan refugees, suggesting that they no longer needed protection. Only 30 of nearly 6,000 Rwandans left, despite a 2003 tripartite agreement signed by Rwanda, Zambia, and UNHCR initiating a formal repatriation process.

Copyright 2005, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

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