U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Zambia



Refoulement/Physical Protection

In 2006, the Government deported at least three recognized refugees to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa). There were also unconfirmed reports that it deported several Angolans.

Zambia was party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention), its 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, but maintained reservations on the 1951 Convention's rights to work, education, freedom of movement, and international travel documents. The 1970 Refugees Control Act (Refugees 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." Otherwise, the Refugees Act authorized officers to deny asylum without giving any reason and deport asylum seekers if they did not apply within seven days of arrival. Zambia did not rigidly apply the seven-day rule and, if asylum seekers applied within a time authorities deemed reasonable, they did not deport them. The Refugees Act also permitted the Minister to declare groups of persons to be refugees, prima facie.

The National Eligibility Committee (NEC), including a representative from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as an observer and adviser, conducted refugee status determinations (RSDs), granting status in 30 of the 227 cases it decided. The Committee rejected 123 applications and 64 applicants never appeared for interviews. Some Somali asylum seekers had already continued on to other countries by the time of their interviews. There was no appeals procedure, but asylum seekers could request a second review by the NEC or ask the Minister of Home Affairs to review the case. Zambia did not allow refugees to have legal representation, but UNHCR monitored the RSD process and occasionally intervened on behalf of individual asylum seekers.

At least 21,900 Angolans repatriated in 2006, along with more than 4,700 Congolese. In March, UNHCR extended its repatriation program of Angolan refugees until the end of the year, and the Government and UNHCR warned refugees who did not repatriate that they would revoke their refugee status. In November, following Congo-Kinshasa's elections, Zambia and Congo-Kinshasa signed an agreement to repatriate more than 50,000 refugees. Many Angolans had lived in Zambia for more than three decades, including some who were born there, and wanted to remain. Zambia did not give any permanent residence.

Only 14 of nearly 4,100 Rwandans left, despite a 2003 tripartite agreement signed by Rwanda, Zambia, and UNHCR initiating a formal repatriation process. More than 400 refugees resettled to third countries, including nearly 350 Congolese and more than 30 Burundians. Many refugees from Somalia and Ethiopia did not complete the refugee status process, but left to seek employment in South Africa. About 50,000 of the refugees Zambia hosted selfsettled and did not hold refugee status.

Detention/Access to Courts

The Government detained about 130 refugees and asylum seekers during the year, for offenses including illegal entry, staying in an urban area without a permit, and working or studying without a permit. In January, officials in Sesheke arrested 10 refugees who had walked 85 miles from Nangweshi camp in search of work and food. In February, authorities in Nakonde detained 85 arriving Somali refugees in a school until UNHCR came to transport them to Mwange refugee camp. The Government held another group of 27 Ethiopian refugees at the local police station.

Police extorted bribes from the refugees to stay out of prison. According to the U.S. Department of State, "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 the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF), a local nongovernmental organization (NGO), provided legal aid to detainees. The Legal Aid Department of the Ministry of Justice provided counsel to refugees accused of criminal offenses. 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.

The Immigration Department issued asylum seekers permits pending resolution of their cases. The Refugees Act required refugees to register with the Government and entitled refugees to receive identity documents, but the Government issued them only to those who registered in urban areas. Authorities normally respected identity documents. In 2005, the constitutionally independent Human Rights Commission declared that no law required people to carry identity cards.

Refugees had the right to bring actions in courts, but those without legal residence feared reporting crimes. However, refugees were more aware of their rights and increasingly sought help from NGOs.

The Constitution granted fundamental rights to all persons in the country, not limited to citizens, including the rights to life, liberty, property, protection from torture or degrading treatment, and protection of the law. It included, however, exceptions to the right to personal liberty in the cases of people who entered the country illegally and for cases in which the Government wished to ban people from traveling to certain parts of the country. The Constitution extended its due process guarantees to persons generally, including those of presumption of innocence, notice of charges, assistance of counsel, examination of witnesses, interpretation of proceedings, punishment only for actions criminal at the time of commission, protection from double jeopardy and compulsory self-incrimination, and impartial tribunals.

The Refugees Act allowed officers to arrest refugees without warrants if they reasonably suspected them of even attempting to violate the Act. Violations included failure to obey or obstruction of "any lawful order of the Commissioner or a refugee officer" and carried penalties up to three months' imprisonment. The Act authorized officers and anyone acting under their authority to use "such force, including the use of firearms, as may be reasonably necessary to compel any refugee to comply with any order or direction made or given under this Act" and gave officers immunity from "any liability, action, claim or demand whatsoever" for their actions under the Act.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

The Government required most refugees to reside in rural camps or settlements located in the western and northern regions, although about 50,000 lived illegally outside the camps. UNHCR did not monitor them or include them in its repatriation programs and immigration officers frequently detained refugees they caught without permits and occasionally extorted bribes from them.

In January and February, hundreds of refugees abandoned camps to search for food after receiving half rations due to shortages. In January, the UN gave out 176 travel passes to refugees at Nangweshi camp, but many others left without passes. Home Affairs Secretary Peter Mumba declared this "a security risk for our country because the refugees are not being monitored."

In February, 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 to law enforcement agencies so they could confine them to designated areas. In June, Somali refugees left Meheba camp, either buying their way out or with help from the local Somali population living outside the camp, and reportedly headed for Namibia or Zimbabwe.

In October, UNHCR began transferring Angolans from Nangweshi to Mayukwayukwa camp and slated the former to close after the repatriation program ended in 2006. Refugees living at Nangweshi camp protested the move by burning their houses. In December, UNHCR gave its facilities to the Government.

Refugees could obtain gate passes to leave the camps to look for work but could not legally reside in urban areas without applying for permission from the Sub-Committee on Urban Residence. Refugees who had legal work or study permits could apply for urban residence. Refugees who experienced security problems or had health problems that were not treatable in the camp could also apply, as well as those UNHCR accepted into its resettlement program. Once a family member had obtained a permit, the family could also apply.

Urban-based refugees required the Commissioner for Refugees' permission to travel both within and outside the country. Refugees could apply for international travel documents, and about 59 received them during the year.

Zambia maintained its reservation to the 1951 Convention reserving authority to designate where refugees could live. The Refugees Act authorized the Minister to designate settlements and to require refugees to live in them and allowed officers to issue permits to leave or reside elsewhere "subject to such terms and conditions as [they] think fit." The Refugees Act required camp-based refugees to have a gate pass from the Refugee Officer to exit camps or settlements. Zambia also maintained its reservation on Article 28 of the 1951 Convention regarding issuance of international travel documents and reserved the right not to allow refugees who left the country to return.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

Refugees had to have permits to work legally and they were almost impossible to get except for nurses, doctors, and teachers. Many refugees in urban areas worked in the informal economy. In principle, they enjoyed the same labor protections as nationals but authorities detained several of them for illegal employment.

In camps and settlements, refugees traded, worked on local farms or in villages, and did other piecemeal work more freely. Congolese refugee farmers grew maize, sweet potatoes, and cassava. In the Western Province, local leaders had long had a good relationship with Angolan refugees who came from a similar cultural background and had routinely allotted each of them 6 to 12 acres of land to farm. With 30 to 60 day travel passes, they could sell their produce as far away as Lusaka.

Refugees also engaged informally in small businesses in the urban areas but authorities arrested several for this as well. Those wishing to do business legally had to show they had $25,000 to invest in Zambia and pay about $400 for the permits. 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.

Zambia maintained its reservation to the 1951 Convention's right to work, reserving the right to require refugees to apply for permits and to grant them rights no more favorable than those of aliens in general. The 1967 Immigration and Deportation Act, amended in 1994 (IDA), prohibited all foreigners, including refugees, from working, doing business, or studying at institutions without appropriate permits. The Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) could only issue work permits to persons already in the country if 1) they had sufficient qualifications, education, skill, and financial resources; 2) there were not enough persons available in Zambia; 3) it would likely benefit the inhabitants generally of Zambia; and 4) the Minister directed the CIO to issue them. The permits could specify conditions on the area in which the bearers could work and the kind of work they could do, "as the Chief Immigration Officer thinks fit." The validity of the permits could also be for as short a period as the Chief Immigration Officer thought fit, with possibility of renewal but to a maximum of five years from its issuance.

The IDA required an entry permit for any foreigner to engage in business. This required knowledge of English (or an indigenous Zambian language) and the Minister's permission. Applicants also had to meet the requirements of a work permit or have sufficient money to maintain themselves and their presence had to benefit the inhabitants of Zambia. The Refugees Act permitted authorities to restrict the use of or commandeer refugees' vehicles and to regulate refugees' keeping of livestock and even to force their sale or slaughter without compensation.

Public Relief and Education

Appreciation of the Zambian Kwatcha against the dollar since 2005 cut aid budgets about 25 percent and cut rations to 80,000 refugees in half in January. Refugees in the Western Province were unable to grow their food because of a nation-wide drought. Malnutrition among children at Nangweshi camp rose by a third. The repatriation of Angolan refugees also created a food shortage for other refugees and the local population. The Angolans had grown beans, rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, and maize, and had established fishponds that had contributed food to the local economy.

In June, refugees in Mwange camp received no soap and teachers there received no pay. UNHCR moved refugees to the Mayukwayukwa camp in October because it had better soil and irrigation; there it gave them food, shelter, and farming tools. UNHCR and its implementing partners provided rations, education, health services, and other basic assistance to refugees in the camps and settlements, and to needy refugees in urban areas.

Humanitarian agencies usually did not provide aid to refugees in urban areas because to move to an urban area legally, refugees were required to prove they could support themselves. The YMCA Refugee Project in Lusaka provided some basic food to asylum seekers awaiting status determination and transport to camps.

Zambia maintained its reservation to Article 22 of the 1951 Refugee Convention and reserved the right to deny refugee children the same rights to primary education as nationals. Refugees had primary education in camps. Authorities in Kala camp had Congolese children study in French to encourage them to repatriate. A few education grants above the primary school level were also available.

The Refugees Act restricted access to the settlements but the Government granted humanitarian agencies access to aid refugees.

In 2002, the Government and UNHCR launched the Zambia Initiative Development Programme (ZIDP) to promote integration of refugees through programs that would benefit refugees and Zambians alike. According to UNHCR's February 2006 evaluation of the program, increased maize production was one of its successes, although production suffered during a drought in 2004-05. The ZIDP only raised $15 million of the $25 million it had planned to raise. Funding shortfalls created some tensions between refugees and locals, including a case when Zambians employing refugees in a ZIDP project could not pay them. Nonetheless, the program markedly increased student enrollment and the number of teachers in the areas it covered. It also provided ambulances and motorbikes to improve medical services in rural areas.

Refugees were major participants in only one of the Local Development Cooperatives (LDCs), and at least one banned them because they did not have Zambian National Registration Cards. The by-laws governing LDCs opened membership to anyone living in the geographic area they covered, but did allow for rejection of any application for membership without granting a reason. Although the program fostered good relations between refugees and nationals, the Government was reluctant to pass legislation giving refugees more rights for fear that too many would not repatriate.

In June, the Fifth National Development Plan, 2006-2010 the Ministry of Finance and National Planning prepared for international donors identified "lack of legal entitlements for refugees" as one of the "key risks for the most vulnerable groups in society." It pointed out that "The fact that the Government made reservations on the articles of the 1951 Convention, which guarantee refugees' freedom of movement and access to employment, requires special attention from the point of view of social protection." According to the Plan, the Ministry of Home Affairs would "play a key role in mainstreaming the refugee issue in the national and regional development policies [and] promote compliance and domestication of international covenants vis-à-vis the protection of refugees." It also identified the ZIDP, as a success of the Public Safety and Order sector.


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