Minister of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo says there’s no selective application when it comes to refugees and political asylum seekers coming to Zambia, but law breakers are not welcome.
He was responding to a question from Kabwe central PF member of parliament Tutwa Ngulube in Parliament, Friday, who wanted to know whether government had a set of rules that it followed when it came to refugees and political asylum seekers.
“Honorable minister, I just I just want to find out, following up on your [ministerial] statement, it appears we have a different set of rules that we apply when it comes to political asylum seekers. In one week we saw on the Southern side, where some politician from Zimbabwe was trying to come in Zambia and some treatment was given to him. On the Northern side, on the Copperbelt we see some other politician who was very free to come in and interact with some people. I want to find out as regards the refugees, as a student of refugee law I still remain stuck in my mind as to whether we do follow what the refugee law says or whether the immigration department acts on their own. I say so because Zambia has come in the spotlight. We have been the biggest hub of these refugees but now we are being doubted as to whether we have selective rules and selective laws. Under the UN regulations and under the UN rules, do we have one set of rules or we choose who should come in as a political refugee?” asked Ngulube.
In response, Kampyongo assured Tutwa that everything government did was within the confinements of the law.
“Thank you very much Mr Speaker and I appreciate the honourable MP for that interesting question. And I want to assure him, and I know as a legal practitioner himself he knows this very well, that everything that we do is done within the confinements of the law. We have the refugees act which is aligned to the international conventions which regulates the movement of people that are running away from fear,” Kampyongo said.
“Now, I know you have cited two examples, and I will explain them in their context. I know you must have been referring to an incident where Mr Tendai Biti and with your permission Mr Speaker…(he said before he was guided by the Speaker to only outline the policies and the law to the extent that it related to his statement)…I want to say that yes indeed what we do is within the confinements of the law.”
And Kampyongo said if one was seeking asylum in another country, they should prove that they were not running away from the law.
“And to make it very clear, on one part, like we always have elections in countries, and SADC where Zambia belong to, observes elections. So if for example honorable Tutwa Ngulube, a Zambian politician, lives in Zambia and after elections here, elections declared free and everything is done, honourable Tutwa Ngulube goes on the street and incite people to break down order and something happens to the people, I don’t think it will be wise in the first place for honourable Tutwa to run into Tanzania for example because they will ask ‘what are you running away from sir’? And you must show cause that indeed your fears are justifiable and not running away from the law,” he said.
“Because if you are running away from the law, we have got also international engagements especially with our neighbours where we agree on how on how to deal with law breakers regardless of their status in society. And so, that’s what applies.And to put the story simple, we made sure that we bounced off to say ‘is this indeed true’ because we communicate as member states. And when we get assurance to say that ‘no no send that citizen back, he will be safe and you will be subjected to the normal processes of justice’, you get that assurance and that’s what you use.”
Kampyongo said anyone was free to come to Zambia so long as they were not running away from the law.
“On the other hand, this country has been a host to so many people who have become Presidents in other countries, so if someone is a citizen of another nation and he is free from anything, they can come here. There are some people who have lived here for a long time. So he’s free to come here unless we are told that this citizen should not be allowed to be in Zambia, then we can act, and we communicate through formal channels. So there’s no selective application whatsoever when it comes to assessing who should be a refugee, who should seek for political asylum,” said Kampyongo.