The Zambian Civil Liberties Union (ZCLU) has expressed concern over the recent statement on the arrest of 500 foreign nationals by the Department of Immigration in Lusaka, allegedly to rid the country of illegal immigrants.
Organization Deputy Executive Director, Maurice Makalu, urged authorities to exercise caution as many of the detainees may be former refugees, who should not be deported despite the cessation clause.
Makalu said this in a statement issued in Lusaka on Monday following the decision by the Department of Immigration to round up 500 foreign nationals for illegal stay and entry.
He said the action would be contrary to the spirit of the Zambian Constitution and 1951 UN Convention on Refugees which Zambia had ratified and domesticated through enactment of the Refugees Act, 2017.
“Government is well aware that a significant number of these individuals have chosen not to return to their countries of origin due to valid fears for their safety and well-being. These cannot therefore be classified as illegal immigrants,” Makalu said.
He said ZCLU firmly believes that every individual deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, irrespective of their nationality or immigration status.
Makalu called on government to reconsider its approach and find a permanent solution to this pressing issue, rather than resorting to frequent arrests and detentions.
“We are deeply concerned that the continued cycle of arrests and detentions creates an environment susceptible to corruption which not only undermines the rule of law but also perpetuates a cycle of exploitation and abuse, placing the lives and well-being of these individuals at risk,” he said.
Makalu said it was crucial to recognize that Zambia was host to approximately 90,000 refugees, with a significant number of them being former refugees, estimated to be between 15,000 to 18,000.
He said shockingly, over 60 percent of this group comprised children who had already endured immense hardships in their lives.
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