THE African Union (AU) has given the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) US$100,000 to facilitate the integration of 10,000 Angolan refugees into Zambia.
The funds would be used to increase water points in the areas of local integration besides improving two schools within the local integration areas.
AU head of delegation Makayat Lazare presented a cheque to out-going UNHCR country representative Joyce Mends-Cole in the presence of Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu.
Mr Lazare said the AU remained committed to dealing with the humanitarian situation on the continent and paid tribute to the Zambian Government for hosting asylum seekers.
"I would like to give my appreciation to the Government of Zambia for its continued efforts to give asylum to thousands of refugees, not only Angolan nationals but also refugees from Burundi, DRC, Rwanda and Somalia.
"The country has been hosting refugees for many, many years. You have even gone an extra mile to integrate Angolan refugees in addition to other refugees," he said.
Mr Lazare noted that the continent had more than 12 million displaced people.
Speaking at the same function, Mr Lungu said it was overwhelming to receive support when it was least expected.
He was happy to note that even if the funds were given to UNHCR, the beneficiaries would be the Zambian people and Angolans.
Mr Lungu thanked the AU for the "exemplary gesture" and appealed to the international community to emulate it by not restricting their support to Angolan refugees only, but those from other countries as well because the issue of refugees was a humanitarian problem needing concerted efforts to address.
He said the programme would take three years and that the implementation process would start in a few months with, among other activities, being the scrutinising of applications and subsequent issuance of permits.
He disclosed that Maheba and Mayukwakwa refugee camps would be de-gazetted to allow for the resettlement schemes for successful applicants of permits in the local integration programme.
The minister later flagged off the integration process by issuing an Angolan family of five which had been residing in Zambia since 1979 with resident permits.
Jose Pinto and his daughter Filipa Pinto were on hand to receive the permits.
Ms Mends-Cole said yesterday was a significant and joyful day as it marked the end of a long journey of uncertainty.