The leader of the Refugee Community in Zambia has demanded for some form of compensation for those refugees affected by the recent xenophobic attacks in Lusaka.
Chairman General of the Refugee Community in Zambia Emile Hatungimana described the xenophobic attacks on and looting of foreign-owned shops and property in Lusaka as barbaric and senseless.
Mr. Hatungimana was speaking in Lusaka during the commemoration of World Refugee Day, which falls today.
“Many are the victims and so far none is talking about compensation. At least something to start rebuilding their livelihoods again. May I, on behalf of the refugee community in Zambia, make an appeal for help to all stakeholders in refugee matters, organisations, the business community, churches and individuals to come to the aid of the victims of the looting. They lost all they had to live on and they are now real destitute. There is no dignity in poverty. They need your hand of generosity now more than ever before,” lamented Mr. Hatungimana.
The refugee leader thanked various sections of Zambian society who offered sanctuary to refugees and other foreigners during the xenophobic attacks, particularly, the St Ignatius Church of Lusaka.
While praising the Zambian Government for introducing the local integration programme for Angolans and Rwandans, Mr. Hatungimana called on the Government to fast-track the programme to achieve massive reduction of refugee population in the country.
At the same commemoration at Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC) in Lusaka, UNHCR Representative, Ms Laura Lo Castro condemned the attacks on foreigners in Lusaka.
She said that while UNHCR was not in a position to compensate all the refugees affected by the xenophobic attacks, some assistance, through the agency’s implementing partner Action Africa Help International – Zambia, would be given to the most desperate cases identified.
She observed that the world has recorded unprecedented numbers of people of concern to UNHCR, with numbers of asylum-seekers, refugees, stateless persons and internally displaced standing at over 60 million globally.
“As we mark the World Refugee Day, the world has recorded unprecedented numbers of people of concern to UNHCR, with numbers of asylum-seekers, refugees, stateless persons and internally displaced standing at over 60 million globally. 24 people are forcibly displaced every minute! 10,000 people (mostly refugees) have died trying to cross the Mediterranean see since 2014,” Said Ms Lo Castro.
The UNHCR Representative further observed that with the increased pressure on countries and the number of wars and emergencies in the world constantly increasing, sentiments towards refugees are mixed.
“While we still have many who welcome refugees, some hearts are hardening. Let us celebrate today the courage and the resilience of refugees in the world and in Zambia, the courage and resilience of people who had no other choice but to leave their homes behind and seek safety and refuge in welcoming countries like Zambia,” she observed.
“At the same time, I wish to call on refugees to actively contribute to finding solutions to their situation, in full respect of Zambian laws. I call on refugees to take advantage of all opportunities the life in Zambia offers them, even if within numerous challenges.”
Guest of Honour at the World Refugee Day commemoration, Mr Vincent Chibuye, the Acting Commissioner for Refugees, assured the refugee community that Zambia will continue to abide by its obligations under international instruments it is party to, such as the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.
The World Refugee Day was being commemorated under the local theme: Together in Diversity, Peace and Prosperity. The commemoration was characterised by cultural performances, speeches and sports by refugees and Zambians.