Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2006 - Zambia

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 14 June 2006
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2006 - Zambia , 14 June 2006, available at: [accessed 21 February 2018]
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/Physical Protection

In 2005, the Government deported at least 5 recognized refugees and 30 asylum seekers without review of their claims, mostly to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa).

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 National Eligibility Committee (NEC), including UNHCR as an observer with an advisory role, conducted individual refugee status determinations (RSDs) granting status to 88 out of the 152 cases it decided. There was no formal appeal procedure, but asylum seekers could request a second review by the NEC or ask the Minister of Home Affairs to review the case. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) monitored the RSD process and occasionally intervened on behalf of individual asylum seekers.

Nearly 17,700 Angolans repatriated in 2005. Several times the Government announced that it was considering invoking the cessation clause for Rwandan refugees, saying they no longer needed protection. Nearly 300 Congolese resettled to third countries. Only 19 of nearly 5,800 Rwandans left, despite a 2003 tripartite agreement signed by Rwanda, Zambia, and UNHCR initiating a formal repatriation process. In February 2006, Foreign Affairs Minister Ronnie Shikapwasha said widespread hunger among refugees would force the Government to repatriate the refugees to their home countries to cut demand on humanitarian food aid.

Detention/Access to Courts

The Government detained at least 160 refugees and asylum seekers during the year, mostly Congolese and Rwandans but some Burundians as well, for such offenses as illegal entry or presence, staying in an urban area without a permit, and working without a permit. In Lusaka, authorities detained at least 78 refugees for leaving camps and settlements without authorization. In January 2006, officials in Sesheke arrested ten refugees who had walked 85 miles from Nangweshi camp in search of work and food.

According to the U.S. State Department, "police frequently used excessive force when apprehending, interrogating, and detaining ... illegal immigrants, and there were reports of torture." Detained refugees and asylum seekers could not get judicial review of their detention before an independent tribunal. UNHCR visited prisons to identify detained refugees and asylum seekers and Christian Initiative for Refugees in Detention and Zambia Red Cross Society monitored conditions. The Government did not separate refugees in pre-trial detention from the general prison population, and there was severe overcrowding, and extremely poor sanitation and food.

Refugees had the right to bring actions in courts, but due to their illegal residence status, many feared reporting crimes, including rapes and robberies.

The Refugee Act entitled refugees to receive identity documents, but the Government only issued them to those who registered legally in urban areas. However, in March, the constitutionally independent Human Rights Commission declared that no law required people to carry identity cards.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

The Government required nearly all refugees to reside in rural camps or settlements located in the western and northern regions. At the end of the year, about 75,000 refugees from Angola and Congo-Kinshasa lived in five camps or settlements, but another 75,000 settled among the populace. About 10,000 refugees lived in Lusaka and other urban areas without permits. Immigration officers frequently detained refugees caught without permits, and occasionally extorted bribes from them.

In February 2006, UNHCR issued 176 passes for refugees in Nangweshi to leave the camp in search of food, but many more left without passes. Home Affairs Secretary Peter Mumba declared this "a security risk for our country because the refugees are not being monitored." In March 2006, as Ethiopian and Somali refugees entered the country, Nakonde District Commissioner Edwin Sinyinza warned residents that it was illegal for them to host foreigners without valid papers and told them to report suspected refugees immediately to law enforcement agencies so they could screen and confine them to designated areas.

The Refugee Act required camp-based refugees to have a gate pass from the Refugee Officer to exit the camps or settlements. These passes could be valid for a few weeks, allowing travel to major towns, even Lusaka. However, refugees in Nangweshi camp sometimes had to wait several days for them. Urban-based refugees required the Commissioner for Refugees' permission to travel both within and outside the country.

Zambia maintained a reservation to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, reserving the authority 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." Refugees could not legally reside in urban areas without applying for permission from the Sub-Committee on Urban Residence.

Refugees could apply for international travel documents and about 200 received them during the year.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

The 1967 Immigration and Deportation Act prohibited all foreigners, including refugees, from working, doing business, or studying at academic institutions without a permit. Zambia maintained reservations to 1951 Convention provisions regarding the right to work. It also maintained a reservation stating that it could treat refugees no more favorably than other foreigners in employment.

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. Employers, however, often categorically rejected refugees' requests for job offers, mistakenly thinking the law prohibited them from hiring refugees. Most urban refugees worked in the informal economy, selling items in local markets or on the streets.

In the Mayukwayukwa and Meheba regions, local chiefs allowed refugees to farm plots of 6 to 12 acres. In 2004, 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.

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.

In June, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, the Council of Churches in Zambia, and the Zambia Episcopal Conference all called upon the Government to relax its movement and work restrictions on refugees.

Public Relief and Education

UNHCR and its implementing partners provided rations, education, health services, 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 due to their own crop production capacity.

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 granted humanitarian agencies access to assist refugees.

In 2006, funding shortfalls compelled WFP to cut rations by half, causing 72,000 refugees to go hungry for weeks on end. In January, Nangweshi camp medical clinic diagnosed 106 children with malnutrition, up from 69 in December, and 2 with acute malnutrition, compared with none earlier.

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