UNHCR and Zambian government start to register refugees
LUSAKA, Zambia, August 31 (UNHCR) - The government of Zambia, in cooperation with the UN refugee agency, has embarked on a comprehensive registration of refugees who are authorized to remain in urban areas.
The exercise was launched on Thursday in Lusaka and will allow the government and UNHCR to update statistics on the specific characteristics of the refugee population, including age, gender, place of origin, marital status and other details. The refugees will be given new identity cards.
"The purpose is to collect and verify information about all the refugees and their families," said Bart Leerschool, head of the UNHCR legal department 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."
From September 10, the registration exercise in urban areas will be followed by registration of the so-called "self-settled" Angolan refugees who remain in the provinces. The government and UNHCR also plan this year to complete the registration of refugees who live in camps and settlements around the country.
Some 20 staff from the Home Affairs Ministry and UNHCR will conduct the registration over the coming weeks. National Registration Officer Kuliwa Siakwasia urged all refugees in Lusaka to turn up and register. "Old identity cards will be invalidated within six months from today," Siakwasia explained to the refugees.
Angolans living outside camps have been told to report with their families to the nearest registration centre in their respective district on designated dates. They should bring identification documents, if available.
Samwaka Chiyesu was among the many Angolans gathered on Thursday at the Commissioner for Refugees' Office to collect his new identity card. "The new cards and documents will protect us from being confused with illegal immigrants and will help us to get assistance where needed," he said enthusiastically.
Leerschool said UNHCR was also providing information technology support and training to government staff involved in the exercise. "UNHCR is interested in making sure that all the refugees are documented. Registration is a protection tool, as there is a link between good registration and durable solutions," he said.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres in March attended a ceremony in Luanda marking the end of organized voluntary repatriation of Angolan refugees from abroad, including Zambia. But this country, home to some 114,000 refugees from several African countries, still hosts Angolans who did not or could not go back home
By Kelvin Shimo in Lusaka, Zambia