6 December 2018

Southern Africa: Zimbabwe Battles Influx of Congolese, Mozambique Refugees

Photo: VOA
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Harare — Zimbabwe, besieged by cholera and economic challenges, is battling a surge of asylum seekers from neighbouring Mozambique and crisis-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Some 1 382 asylum seekers, largely Congolese, have arrived in the current year.

A significant number of these vulnerable members of the community are fleeing the ceaseless conflict in DRC ahead of elections later this month. Those from Mozambique are escaping intermittent clashes perpetrated by opposition militants.

The latest arrivals bring to 13 864 registered refugees, asylum seekers and so-called persons of concern in economically-struggling Zimbabwe.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has raised concern at the lack of access to shelter, which remains a challenge due to funding constraints and increasing refugee population in the Tongogara Refugee Camp near Chipinge, some 400 kilometres southeast of the capital Harare.

Meanwhile, an ongoing cholera outbreak has led to the postponement of an exercise to verify the population of refugees, asylum seekers and persons of concern.

The postponement follows the restriction on public gatherings by authorities in the eastern province of Manicaland, which borders Mozambique.

"UNHCR will engage the authorities to put in measures to allow for the exercise to proceed," a spokesperson said.

The UN agency also lamented the lack of class rooms and teachers at schools around Tongogara, which impacts on refugees and asylum-seekers' access to high school education.

Ironically, thousands of Zimbabweans are asylum seekers and refugees mostly in South Africa after fleeing years of political crisis and economic decline.

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