HOME affairs minister Edgar Lungu says most Rwandan refugees are resisting repatriation citing fear of persecution by their government.
Speaking during a ministerial meeting on the Comprehensive Durable Solutions Strategy for the Rwandan Refugee situation in Pretoria on Thursday, Lungu said as at February 28, 2013, the total number of Rwandan refugees in Zambia stood at 5,968, of which 3,771 were registered at camp, 1,283 lived in urban areas, while the rest were self-settled among Zambians in villages.
He said Zambia remained committed to pursuing the implementation of the Comprehensive Strategy of enhancing repatriation and re-integration, pursuing local integration or alternative legal status in countries of asylum, meeting needs of those unable to return home for protection-related reasons and elaborating a common schedule leading to the cessation of refugees status, now foreseen to come into effect as of June 30, 2013.
Lungu said the tripartite agreement for the voluntary repatriation of Rwandan refugees had been in existence in Zambia, since May 2003.
However, only about 300 refugees have been repatriated to Rwanda.
"Most Rwandan refugees are resisting the repatriation citing fear of persecution by their government," he said according to a statement released by first secretary for press at Zambia's High Commission in South Africa, Patson Chilemba.
He said as the deadline for repatriation drew closer, the government had begun working towards the development of a clear framework for the solution, adding that repatriation even at this late stage remained the most favoured solution for majority Rwandan refugees in Zambia.
On the issue of local integration, Lungu said the refugees should acquire Rwandan passports for them to benefit from local integration as was required by statute.
He said the government, therefore, requests the Rwandese government to make it easy for refugees to acquire passports, saying this might even help convince more to take up voluntary repatriation if they saw that some of their colleagues had been helped by their own government to locally integrate.
Lungu said only 10 percent of those who applied for exemption from repatriation stating reasons why they could not go back to Rwanda and therefore required continued refugee protection beyond the cessation date had been permitted to stay.
He said it followed therefore that the majority of Rwandans may find themselves in a precarious situation should they not have appropriate legal documentation to allow them to continue living in the country as foreign nationals beyond June 30.