Zambian Deputy Minister for Home Affairs Col. Kaunda Tushuke Panji has said his country will expel Rwandans who live in Zambia illegally as part of renewed bid to implement the cessation clause.
Panji made the remarks in Kigali at the conclusion of a tripartite meeting between Rwanda, Zambia and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) yesterday.
The meeting was convened to review the progress of the implementation of the cessation clause for former Rwandan refugees living in Zambia.
“We have a responsibility that everyone acquires proper documents or returns to Rwanda, if not we will have to deport them. We believe in the Rwandan justice system and a lot of strides have been made here. Those who have cases to answer will do so in Rwanda. We are only required to implement international laws,” Panji told journalists.
During the two-day meeting, officials agreed on a three-month period to sensitise Rwandans living in Zambia to either repatriate or acquire proper documentation allowing them to stay there legally.
A total of 6,091 Rwandans, mostly former refugees live in Zambia, according to authorities from the southern African country.
The cessation clause, adopted in 2013, affects about 4,000 former Rwandan refugees in Zambia who fled Rwanda between 1959 and 1998.
According to the Zambian government, 733 out of the 4,000 have various immigration permits.
But for these to become ordinary migrants, they need to acquire Rwandan passports, which is a prerequisite for their local integration.
As a follow up on the resolutions of the meeting held between the two governments in July 2013, the Rwandans in question have been invited to apply for national passports.
The Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, Seraphine Mukantabana, reiterated Rwanda’s commitment to facilitate the process of a dignified closure of Rwandan refugee chapter.
“These efforts to end refugee status for Rwandan refugees are not intended to destabilise them. All we want is to restore the dignity that Rwandans have been deprived of by carrying refugee label for decades, because there is no privilege in being called a refugee,” she said.
A joint statement issued at the end of the meeting indicated that the Zambian government agreed to step up efforts to prevent the hardliners from discouraging others from voluntary repatriation.