Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2017, 11:43 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Zimbabwe

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 10 June 2002
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Zimbabwe , 10 June 2002, available at: [accessed 21 October 2017]
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.

Political violence and government land-reform policies left some 50,000 persons internally displaced in Zimbabwe at the end of 2001.

Zimbabwe hosted about 9,000 refugees and asylum seekers at year's end, including some 4,000 from Congo-Kinshasa, nearly 3,000 from Rwanda, about 1,000 from Burundi, and 1,000 refugees from various other countries.

Displacement in Zimbabwe

Long-simmering tensions over land reform erupted during 2000 when thousands of people, led by the country's so-called "war veterans," abruptly moved onto more than 1,500 commercial farms owned by Zimbabwe's minority white population. The country's ruling political party reportedly orchestrated the land-occupation campaign to gain political support among landless populations at a time of economic decline and rising anti-government sentiments.

Occupation of commercial farms expanded during 2001. By year's end, the government listed 1,000 large-farm owners for eviction and indicated that it would take control of at least 3,000 additional farms as part of the land-reform program.

Some farm occupations were violent. Approximately 50,000 low-wage laborers who lived and worked on commercial farms became displaced because landless pro-government protesters physically threatened them, or because the workers lost wages when commercial farm production declined.

Most uprooted farm laborers moved in with family and friends in rural areas, or relocated to urban areas. Smaller numbers of teachers and government employees who opposed Zimbabwe's ruling party also fled their homes after government soldiers threatened them.

Government officials subdivided some large commercial farms and distributed the land to small landholders. The resettlement program was poorly organized, however, with little or no assistance to families lacking skills and tools needed for farming, according to analysis by the International Crisis Group (ICG). Government officials failed to provide ownership documents to most resettled families. Some newly resettled persons vacated their land after a few months.

Political tensions mounted at year's end because of the land-reform crisis and preparations for a contentious presidential election in early 2002. "Zimbabwe is in a state of free fall," the ICG report concluded. "It is embroiled in the worst political and economic crisis of its 20-year history as an independent state."

Refugees in Zimbabwe

The overwhelming majority of refugees in Zimbabwe lived in urban areas without significant humanitarian assistance. The country's economic deterioration made life difficult for many refugee families. About 1,000 refugees lived in rural Tongogara camp.

Humanitarian programs provided food to about 1,000 refugees and asylum seekers and offered financial support to about 200 refugees attending schools. Additional refugee students sought, but did not receive, educational support from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which lacked funding for increased school fees.

"In ... Zimbabwe, a 20 percent reduction of budget has clearly had a negative impact on refugee welfare," UNHCR reported in mid-2001. "Food supply furnished to refugees and asylum seekers was insufficient."

UNHCR reported that budget cuts curbed medical care for refugees and prevented the agency from placing a full-time protection officer in the country. Refugees detained by authorities were often imprisoned for extended periods because UNHCR lacked protection staff to intervene quickly on their behalf.

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