Hon. Charumbira calls for a focused policy that fights criminalization and exploitation of refugees - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Friday, June 21, 2019

Hon. Charumbira calls for a focused policy that fights criminalization and exploitation of refugees

Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira
The Fourth Vice President of the Pan African Parliament (PAP), Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira has called for a functional policy that fights the criminalization and exploitation of refugees as well as focus on the social and economic benefits that refugees bring.

Presenting a welcome address on behalf of the PAP President, Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang at the 2019 World Refugee Day jointly organized by the South African Department of Home Affairs in collaboration with the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) at the premises of the Pan African Parliament, Hon. Charumbira noted that the World Refugee Day is an occasion to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems and emphasize on achievements.  
He noted that African Union’s theme for 2019, which is “The Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa” comes at a time when Africa is also marking major anniversaries for two pioneering and highly influential treaties: The 1969 OAU (Organization of African Unity) Refugee Convention and the 2009 African Union Convention on Internally Displaced Persons also known as the Kampala Convention.

“To commemorate these milestone anniversaries and promote the new AU theme of the year across Africa – the continent most heavily affected by forced displacement with more than a third of the world’s forcibly displaced. Of the close to 1.3 billion Africans today, 29.3 million live outside our continent, and only 30% of these live in Europe. By comparison, it is probably a safe estimate that 4% of Africans live outside their country, as opposed to, for instance, 8% of Europeans living abroad. Africans love their home, their country, their continent. In a world where most populations are ageing, the old African continent is again emerging, and growing. It will have a population of over 2 billion in 2050”.

“I have trust in the fact that the African Union Agenda 2063 commits to addressing the protection of refugees, Internally Displaced Persons as well as migrants in all situations.  The vision of inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa can only better be achieved if we competently and comprehensively address the question of displacement of our people.”  

“As a parliament, we note how topical and relevant the AU Theme of the year is. Africa is looking after the largest number of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced People. Consequently, the Pan African Parliament, through its Committees, deliberated extensively on the AU theme during the sittings which held in Tunisia and Midrand in March.  In May 2019, the PAP Plenary resolved to take bold and effective political leadership to resolve conflicts in Africa through policies and strategies that strengthen national systems and structures that prevent conflicts and displacement on the continent.”

“We called on parliamentarians to effectively contribute to the eradication of structural sources and drivers of conflict, including corruption, extreme poverty, gender inequality and other forms of discrimination, human rights violations, low political participation, organized crime, resource mismanagement, rule of law issues and youth unemployment.”

“Refugees have left their home escaping inhumane conditions, the consequences of natural disaster or political persecution, have suffered loss of family members and loss of their home and their land, they have seen death, experienced injustice and fear, have suffered maltreatment, torture and sexual violence; they are traumatized. The numbers of refugees are increasing, with less food and clean water. Many of the young refugees who find no opportunities for training and work, move on, hoping that they will be able to ameliorate their situation. They are further exposed to abuse, exploitation, extortion, kidnapping for ransom and modern slavery.”

“As African Union we need to set an agenda to fight these crimes. This century will be an African century, and our continent will be built on African values. Refugees can be protected and safe, they can be reintegrated into our communities, with plenty of resources and they can contribute to our economies. This is not always easy, as globalisation is challenging these values. In our efforts to build caring communities, we need to be aware of the particular spaces of our rural communities, and those of our cities, the spaces across borders and those away from our continent, in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, the Americas. In this, we will find allies across the globe, there where we are respected with dignity.”

“On this particular day where we commemorate Refugees, I want to recognise the efforts of the men and women who have sacrificed their lives, their time, their thoughts, to ensure that the refugees enjoy their rights as human beings and also those who have contributed politically, socially, economically, psychologically and in many other ways to ensure that the refugee problem and its resultant problems are addressed meaningfully and sustainably.”

“We commend the efforts of Uganda, which is currently hosting 1.2 million refugees, for integrating refugees within communities, providing them with economic assets, such as land, and strengthening their resilience and self-reliance. Uganda has also provided social protection to its returnees from the war in the North, a programme that has proven to help communities get back on their feet.” 

“Ethiopia’s social protection programmes have helped pastoralist communities across borders to strengthen their resilience without curbing their mobility. In East Africa Cross Border programmes, long neglected, are established to strengthen health facilities for mobile communities living across the borders.”

“In my own region, our borders are amongst the liveliest communities in which people on both sides of the border belong together and trade. Especially in times of want, these border communities are places where creative solutions emerge to sort out daily problems. These experiences where positive results emerge, can guide us, as surely in Africa we already have home-grown and tested solutions. It shows that mobility as such is not the problem, on the contrary, mobility and migration have helped our communities to survive and to overcome hardship. With these many good examples, we have every reason to be hopeful that we can elaborate our policies in Africa, inspired by these positive results.”

“We will propose an alternative, and more functional policy. A policy that first of all does not fight the idea of mobility – which is crucial for economies and for the resilience and well-being of our communities. A policy which is focused on the protection of refugees. A policy which fights criminalization and exploitation of refugees. A policy that capitalizes on social and economic benefits that refugees bring. A policy that honours the dignity of each and every human being and that Europe will follow.”

“In this alternative approach there is no place for closed borders. In this approach we will fight determinedly all those who abuse refugees for their own ends. We will take responsibility for our own continent and make it a thriving place where our people know they belong. To achieve this, we will need to be in charge of our own continent. What will this look like? One of our great intellectuals proposes a place where "Africans are not turned into scraps of a planet dotted with watchtowers. It must become its own center, its own power, a vast space of circulation, a continent-world. Africa must complete the project of decolonization, forging, for itself, a new African policy on mobility.”

 “Africa has all the resources to achieve this. The basis of it will be its foundational values. One of Africa’s great scholars observes that these will have the quality to guide our continent into the future:

“Having faith in the richness of the discussions that will take place this morning, we pledge as African Union to protect the Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced people on our continent, to root out the crimes that aim to exploit them and to forge collaboration with partners who respect the dignity of the people on our continent” he concluded.

It would be recalled that the World Refugee Day has been marked on 20 June, ever since the UN General Assembly, on 4 December 2000, adopted resolution 55/76 where it noted that 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and that the Organization of African Unity (OAU) had agreed to have International Refugee Day coincide with Africa Refugee Day on 20 June. World Refugee Day is commemorated to honour the courage, strength and resilience of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.

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