Former Rwandan refugees have complained of the challenges they are facing to be formerly integrated in the Zambian society.
This is notwithstanding that they have stayed in Zambia to closer to three decades, more than twice the number of years required for a foreign national to acquire citizenship of another Country.
The Rwandese refugees in question are those that were declared former refugees in 2017.
Regardless of this declaration, it is a requirement, by the Zambian government, that those former Rwandese refugees seeking to be integrated, must first obtain passports from their country of origin.
This requirement has, on the other hand, being viewed and felt to be torturers by former Rwandese refugees staying in Zambia.
Former and Current Rwandan Refugees Association in Zambia -FOCURRAZ Coordinator Innocent Rukundo explained that former Rwandese refugees have refused to obtain passports from a regime they consider as an oppressor.
Mr. Rukundo who is a former Rwandese refugees himself, has disclosed that his fellow former Rwandese refugees feel tortured each time they told to get passports from their home Country under the Paul Kagame administration.
He has lamented of how former Rwandese refugees also feel that the Zambian Immigration Departments is treating them harshly.
The FOCURRAZ Coordinator claims that the Zambian Immigration Department is making it difficult for former Rwandese refugees to get the required documentation, for instance, for employment, for opening of bank accounts and sending their children to school.
He laments that former Rwandese refugees are further being treated like any other foreign national or investor, by asking them to pay US$ 250, 000 before they could start any business in the host Country.
Mr. Rukundo has noted that this in addition to the K14, 000, they have to pay annually.
He has wondered where, former Rwandese refugees, who entered Zambia under critical circumstances, could find such kind of money.
Mr. Rukundo adds that former refugees are equally facing challenges in putting their children into school or enabling them to access scholarships, owing to the documentation being required from them to present.
He says former and current Rwandese refugees are however grateful to the Zambian government for the efforts being made to ease their stay in the Country and integrate them in the Zambian society.
And Commission for Refugees in Zambia Prosper Ng’andu has assured former Rwandese refugees, staying in the Country, there are plans to either reduce the documentation fees or scrap them altogether.
Dr. Ng’andu has disclosed that the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security and relevant stakeholders are already in talks on how this is will be done.
He has acknowledged that his office is aware of the many challenges former Rwandese refugees are facing and how keen they desire to be integrated.
Meanwhile, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Movement of Promoting National Values and Principals Joseck Kunda has called for the amendment of Refugees Act of April 2017.
Mr. Kunda has argued that the current Refugees Act is restrictive, oppressive and archaic.
He feels that the Act, in question, leaves nothing to be desired as it does not address the many challenges refugees, staying in Zambia, face.
Mr. Kunda has wondered how, for example, a refugee visiting a fellow refugee, with a business permit, should be arrested for just being in their colleagues’ shop.
He is also displeased that a refugee can currently be arrested barely after an hour of their permits expiring and kept in remand for a period of about five months.
Mr. Kunda adds that his organisation is further concerned about the killing of Rwandese refugees staying in Zambia on the guise of mistaken identity.
He believes that the such killings are being orchestrated by the current Rwandese government because it allegedly fears that its people who fled Rwanda, to reside in other friendly Countries, could rise against it.
Mr. Kunda is however hopeful that challenges being faced by former and current Rwandese refugees will be resolved given the political will coming from the Zambian government.
He has disclosed that his organisation has already had an audience with the Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Jack Mwiimbu, who has promised the amendment of the current Zambian Refugees Act of 2017.
In separate development, the Geneva based UNHCR assistant commissioner – protection Ms Gillian Triggs was welcomed by banners objecting to the mandatory of acquisition of a Rwandese passport.