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The registration of refugees in Zambia passes another milestone

News Stories, 7 March 2008

© UNHCR/K.Shimo
Refugees in Meheba wait to take part in a registration exercise.

LUSAKA, Zambia, March 7 (UNHCR) The effort to record details on every refugee in Zambia has passed another milestone with the conduct of a registration operation by the Zambian government and UNHCR in the refugee settlement of Meheba in the north-west of the country.

UN refugee agency staff worked in the camp this month to update statistics on the specific characteristics of the refugee population, including age, gender, place of origin, marital status and other details. Upon completion, the refugees will be given new identity cards.

"The purpose is to collect and verify information about all the refugees and their families," said James Lynch, UNHCR representative in Zambia. "Having an updated and accurate database of all refugees will help the Zambian government, UNHCR and support agencies to better offer legal protection and to plan for assistance measures."

Zambia currently hosts about 113,000 refugees, although the exact figure will only be known when registration is completed throughout the country. Registration in two refugee camps in the north of Zambia that host mainly Congolese will come later because many residents are returning home under a UNHCR-facilitated repatriation programme.

More than 59,000 refugees are in four camps in the Western, North Western, Northern and Luapula provinces, while 54,000 refugees reside outside the camps. The largest portion are Congolese refugees some 55,000 following the voluntary repatriation of about 74,000 Angolan refugees between 2003 and early 2007. Other refugees are from Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia.

After a registration last year of refugees in urban areas like Lusaka and "self-settled" Angolan refugees in the provinces, the exercise moved this January to Mayukwayukwa refugee settlement in western Zambia. A total of 10,280 people were registered in the camp.

At the start of March, staff from UNHCR and the Home Affairs Ministry began the exercise in Meheba, which was established in 1971 and is among the oldest refugee camps in Africa. It hosts refugees from Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia.

"UNHCR is interested in making sure that all the refugees are documented. Registration is a protection tool as there is a link between accurate registration and durable solutions," said Lynch.

Mendes Munguambe, UNHCR field officer in Solwezi, said refugees had cooperated in the exercise, which formally concludes on 10 March and began by identifying each individual with a wristband so there could be no double-counting: "We started with wrist banding and then conducted the actual registration and data capturing."

Individuals must be correctly identified to ensure there is accurate information on their particular needs, such as food rations or vulnerable family situations. It is a vital part of UNHCR's role in both protecting refugees and finding long-term solutions for them.

"Old ration cards will be invalidated upon receipt of a new family card and refugees will be provided with a new ID card," said National Registration Officer Kuliwa Siakwasia, one of 20 people who conducted the registration.

By Kelvin Shimo in Lusaka, Zambia




UNHCR country pages


The recording, verifying, and updating of information on people of concern to UNHCR so they can be protected and UNHCR can ultimately find durable solutions.

Statelessness in Viet Nam

Viet Nam's achievements in granting citizenship to thousands of stateless people over the last two years make the country a global leader in ending and preventing statelessness.

Left stateless after the 1975 collapse of the bloody Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, nearly 1,400 former Cambodian refugees received citizenship in Viet Nam in 2010, the culmination of five years of cooperation between the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Vietnamese government. Most of the former refugees have lived in Viet Nam since 1975, all speak Vietnamese and have integrated fully. Almost 1,000 more are on track to get their citizenship in the near future. With citizenship comes the all-important family registration book that governs all citizens' interactions with the government in Viet Nam, as well as a government identification card. These two documents allow the new citizens to purchase property, attend universities and get health insurance and pensions. The documents also allow them to do simple things they could not do before, such as own a motorbike.

Viet Nam also passed a law in 2009 to restore citizenship to Vietnamese women who became stateless in the land of their birth after they married foreign men, but divorced before getting foreign citizenship for them and their children.

UNHCR estimates that up to 12 million people around the world are currently stateless.

Statelessness in Viet Nam

Keeping Occupied in Turkey's Adiyaman camp for Syrian Refugees

Since the conflict in Syria erupted in April 2011, the government of neighbouring Turkey has established 17 camps in eight provinces to provide safety and shelter to tens of thousands of refugees - three-quarters of them women and children. The camps, including Adiyaman depicted here, provide a place to live and address the basic physical needs of the residents, but they also provide access to health care, education, vocational training and other forms of psychosocial support.

UNHCR teams are present on a regular basis in all the refugee camps and provide technical assistance to the Turkish authorities on all protection-related concerns, including registration, camp management, specific needs and vulnerabilities, and voluntary repatriation. UNHCR has contributed tents, cooking facilities and other relief items. The refugee agency is also working with the government to help an estimated 100,000 Syrian urban refugees. It will continue its material and technical support to help the authorities cope with an increase in arrivals. The following images of camp life were taken by American photographer, Brian Sokol, in Adiyaman camp, located in Turkey's Gaziantep province. At the start of February 2013, nearly 10,000 Syrian refugees were living in the camp.

Keeping Occupied in Turkey's Adiyaman camp for Syrian Refugees

Climate change and displacement

In the past few years, millions of people have been displaced by natural disasters, most of which are considered to be the direct result of climate change. Sudden weather events, such as Myanmar's Cyclone Nargis in 2008, widespread flooding in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camps in 2006 and the drought that hit Ethiopia in the 1980s, can leave huge numbers of people traumatized and without access to shelter, clean water and basic supplies.

The international community has entrusted UNHCR with responsibility for protecting and assisting people who are forcibly displaced and who cannot return safely home. Although the majority of people displaced by climate change will remain within their own borders, where states have clearly defined responsibilities, additional support may be required.

When called upon to intervene, UNHCR can deploy emergency teams and provide concrete support in terms of registration, documentation, family reunification and the provision of shelter, basic hygiene and nutrition.

Among those who are displaced across borders as a result of climate change, some will be refugees while others may not meet the definition. Nevertheless, many may be in need of protection and assistance.

Climate change and displacement

Almost Home Play video

Almost Home

Former Angolan refugees, in exile for as many as three decades, are given the opportunity to locally integrate in neighboring Zambia with the help of UNHCR and the Zambian Government.
Jordan: New Refugee Registration Centre OpensPlay video

Jordan: New Refugee Registration Centre Opens

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visits a new registration centre in the Jordanian capital, Amman. The centre was opened to accommodate the growing needs of the many Syrian refugees living in Jordan.