Sunday, January 29, 2012

Zambian Catholic Bishops Oppose Forcing Refugees to Rwanda

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…For I was a stranger, and you welcomed me (Matthew 25:35)

As church leaders with a long tradition of advocacy for refugee rights, we recognise that Zambia has had more than 50 years of refugee protection in this country. Since Independence, Zambia has always been ‘an oasis of peace’ in the midst of a region of conflict. This has consequently made Zambia a haven for refugees.

We are therefore greatly disturbed by complaints among refugees, especially those from Rwanda that the Ministry of Home Affairs, in agreement with the local United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and possibly the Rwandese government, is trying to forcibly repatriate Rwandese refugees from Zambia.

We believe that it is not right for the Office of the Zambian Government’s Commissioner for Refugees and the UNHCR, to remove the refugee status from Rwandese nationals based in Zambia or those from other countries and to oblige them to return to their own country against their wishes. In this respect, it is perhaps an opportune time for Zambia to review the Refugees Control Act, 1970, with a view to instituting protection against refoulement, even on selective country basis. This would be in keeping with Article 33(1) of 1954 United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Convention and the United Nations Principle on Non-Refoulement

We are inclined to agree with the United States Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that this is not the time to facilitate the removal of the refugee status. Moreover, the refugee population in Zambia has greatly declined with the voluntary repatriation of thousands of refugees. If anything, we would thus request the Zambian Government to regularise the status of some refugees in this country and facilitate that they be accorded local integration, including freedom of movement and of employment. This will enable them to live normal lives.

Issued at Kapingila House, Lusaka, Zambia on 29 January, 2012 and Signed by
§ His Eminence, Medardo Cardinal Joseph Mazombwe
§ Most. Rev. Ignatius Chama – Archbishop of Kasama, Apostolic Administrator of Mpika and ZEC President
§ Rt. Rev. Alick Banda – Bishop of Ndola and ZEC Vice President
§ Most Rev. Telesphore-George Mpundu – Archbishop of Lusaka
§ Rt. Rev. Raymond Mpezele – Bishop of Livingstone
§ Rt. Rev. Emilio Patriarca – Bishop of Monze
§ Rt. Rev. George Cosmas Zumaile Lungu –Bishop of Chipata
§ Rt. Rev. Charles Kasonde – Bishop of Solwezi
§ Rt. Rev. Evans Chinyama Chinyemba, OMI – Bishop of Mongu
§ Rt. Rev. Clement Mulenga, SDB– Bishop of Kabwe
§ Rt. Rev. Benjamin Phiri – Auxiliary Bishop of Chipata
§ Mons. Ignatius Mwebe  Apostolic Administrator of Kasama
§ Very Rev. Fr. Michael Merizzi, M.Afr.  Apostolic Administrator of Mansa
§ Most Rev. James Spaita – Archbishop Emeritus of Kasama

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