Rwanda + 1 more

Zambia: Rwandan refugees claim increased harassment

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JOHANNESBURG, 6 February (IRIN) - The Zambian Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) on Thursday said investigations into the alleged harassment of Rwandan refugees in the country were underway.
"Last week a representative of Rwandan refugees lodged a formal complaint with the commission, alleging that they were being forced to return home even though the conditions in Rwanda were not suitable. They have also said that there has been increased harassment since it was announced that they would return to their country," Lass Mufuzu, ZHRC director, told IRIN

The government last year signed a tripartite agreement with the Rwandan government and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the voluntary repatriation of Rwandan refugees. The UN refugee agency expects to begin repatriating the refugees in April.

"We cannot confirm these allegations as we have yet to do our investigations," Mufuzu added.

UNHCR spokesman Kelvin Shimo said the agency believed it was safe for the Rwandan refugees to return home. He, however, pointed out that the programme was voluntary.

"Nobody would be forced to return to Rwanda. The Zambian government has also made this clear," Shimo said.

Many of the Rwandan refugees arrived in Zambia more than seven years ago in the wake of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Meanwhile, UNHCR in Namibia confirmed an influx of around 410 new refugees to the country from Rwanda and Burundi during January 2003, as well as 90 new Angolan arrivals.

The refugees from Rwanda and Burundi were said to have come from refugee camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.

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