By Griffiths Ncube, HourlyHits Reporter
The US Government has sought Zimbabwe’s assistance over the possibility of settling Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban and accommodating them at Tongogara Refugee Camp in Chipinge.
This comes as most European countries have been reluctant to commit to taking in specific numbers of Afghan refugees other than those who have collaborated with their own agencies, and Uganda is among African nations that have accepted to help host some Afghans.
Deputy Chief Secretary to President Emmerson Mnangagwa in charge of Presidential Communications, George Charamba, made the revelations on Wednesday morning.
Charamba added that the unnamed Government made the overtures through the Harare office of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), a United Nations (UN) agency.
“Did you know that Zimbabwe was recently approached by some western govt through IOM to get her to accept fleeing Afghan collaborators as refugees here?” Charamba made the announcement on Twitter.
“Well, I think as we debate this request through IOM, let’s not profile other races, other faiths, other religions. Zimbabwe is a broad-minded nation when it comes to race relations, cultures and faiths. It is the West’s narrowness which created the mayhem we see in Afghanistan.
“What we are debating here is the morality of a retreating invader co-opting other nations in cleaning up its mess arising from its unjust wars. Or the deservedness of nationals who collaborate with an occupying power to find relief and succour in other nations with nothing to do with the occupation, in the first place.
“And for Zimbabwe, whether or not it’s consistent with its policy, values and stance to aid and abet displacements from struggles against western imperialism. Would this validate our history as a post-liberation society?”
He added that President Mnangagwa’s government turned down the request “outright”.
The majority of refugees at Tongogara Camp are from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There are also asylum seekers from Burundi, Rwanda and the Sudan, as well as from Somalia, among other nations, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Tongogara Refugee Camp was established in 1984 to take in refugees from Mozambique who were fleeing from the war between the government and the Mozambican National Resistance Movement (RENAMO) forces. It was shut down in 1995 after of its members returned to Mozambique, but was reopened in 1998 to accommodate refugees from other African countries as well as Europe and Asia.
Zimbabwe refugee statistics for 2020 was 9 266, a 3.46% increase from 2019, according to the UNHCR.
Charamba made the revelations as a flight carrying Afghan evacuees fleeing the Taliban takeover of their country touched down early today in Uganda where they will be given temporary refuge. Uganda hosts the refugees at the cost of the US Government.
“The Government of the Republic of Uganda this morning received fifty one (51) evacuees from Afghanistan who arrived aboard a privately chartered flight at the Entebbe International Airport,” the Ugandan foreign ministry said in a statement.
It said it followed a request from the US government to temporarily host “at-risk” Afghan nationals and others who are in transit to the United States and other destinations worldwide.
The US embassy in Kampala thanked Uganda for its “generosity and hospitality toward these communities”.
“The Government of Uganda and the Ugandan people have a long tradition of welcoming refugees and other communities in need,” the embassy posted on Twitter.
Uganda hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world — nearly 1.5 million according to the United Nations, mainly from neighbouring South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Most live in large refugee settlements in the sparsely populated north of the country but around 81,000 urban refugees live in the capital Kampala.
The UNHCR says more than 550,000 Afghans have been internally displaced since January. UNHCR further says the August 15 takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban had exposed Afghan residents who have worked with western governments or their agencies, or are perceived to be particularly at risk due to the nature of their work, such as journalists, translators or human rights activists.