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Southern Africa refugee statistics

Briefing notes

Southern Africa refugee statistics

3 August 2001

The global refugee population in Southern Africa is on the rise. The number of new asylum seekers in the region has increased by 7,8% over the first six months of 2001, from 320,563 to 345,720. The increase is even higher at 9.6 percent if one includes the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, which are also part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and together host 72% of the area's refugees.

This upward trend is mainly due to protracted crises in the region showing little signs of respite, such as the Angolan civil conflict and the slow progress in the Congo and Burundi peace processes. In Zambia alone, new arrivals over the past six months total 17,900 DRC refugees and 9,100 Angolan refugees. Existing camps and settlements have been extended, sometimes stretching beyond their capacity. Despite the ongoing peace process in the DRC, arrivals of Congolese into Northern Zambia have increased again recently to about 200 per week, after regressing for several months. This may be explained by the fact that people fear further violence in the wake of the retreat of foreign armies. There is also still a steady trickle into Zambia of Angolans from Moxico and Cuando Cubango provinces.

The global increase in Southern Africa is particularly sharp in countries with traditionally small refugee populations like Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi. In Zimbabwe, the refugee population more than doubled from 4,127 to 8,416 (+ 103%) between January and June this year, and Mozambique, saw an increase of 85%, from 2,278 to 4,216, while new arrivals in Malawi rose by 23%, from 3,900 to 4,810. The three countries continue receiving a small but regular inflow of asylum seekers from the Great Lakes (DRC, Rwanda and Burundi), including Rwandans who may have been on the move since the 1994 genocide, circulating through other countries before reaching Southern Africa. The number of Burundi refugees in Southern Africa however remains small (5,630, of which 2,008 in Zambia) compared to staggering numbers in Tanzania (388,502) and the DRC (19,775).

In Namibia the global refugee population has so far increased by 9% in 2001. However new arrivals, mainly from Angola, have dropped to 300 per month on the average, down from 500 last year. This drop could be attributed to heavy rains, flooded rivers and the possible blocking of safe refugee routes into Namibia by various armed forces. Namibia's refugee population grew by 60% in 2000 and has now reached 30,635 at the end of June 2001.