The government has reaffirmed its commitment to providing international protection and finding lasting solutions for new and former refugees.
North-western province Minister, Robert Lihefu says Zambia remains committed to improving the protection environment, meeting humanitarian and development needs and providing opportunities for self-reliance and empowering refugees alias persons of concern (POC).
The Minister said this in a speech read on his behalf by his Permanent Secretary, Grandson Katambi during the commemorations of World Refugee Day held under the theme: Right to Seek Asylum for Protection and Safety, at Meheba Block D in Kalumbila today.
“The government remains committed to provide services for the refugees as evidenced in the provision of free education from early childhood to secondary, social protection, access to health and more,” Mr Lihefu said.
He said North-western province in particular continues to receive asylum seekers who are provided with safety and security which he said in line with this year’s theme.
“World Refugee Day is an occasion for the global community to come together and reflect on how far we have come in the implementation of the principles espoused in the refugee conventions,” Mr Lihefu said.
Mr Lihefu thanked UNHCR for their good working relationship and support and also recognised the vital role which the host communities play in welcoming, accommodating and living with the POC in harmony.
And in a speech read on her behalf by UNHCR Head-Solwezi, Pablo Viczaino, UNHCR Country Representative, Pierrine Aylara said the world has passed a grim milestone of human rights abuse and conflicts, .
“We marked a grim milestone: the number of people forced to flee conflict, war, persecution and human rights abuses crossed the 100 million mark for the first time on record,” Ms Aylara said.
She pointed out that Zambia has not been spared by the inflows of refugees and asylum seekers, adding that the numbers are staggering and unacceptable.
Meanwhile, Meheba Refugee Officer, Castrol Singelengele appreciated government for hosting the people of concern.
“Thank you to government for generosity of receiving asylum seekers and refugees in Zambia…this is a strong demonstration of how government remains committed towards implementing the international protocols that observe human rights,” Mr Singelengele said.
He also thanked government for implementing the free education policy as this move solidifies the concept of inclusion of refugees under national structures.
Meheba has a verified population of 31,899 POC, out of which Congolese refugees are the highest number.