By Staff Reporter
CHIPINGE: Parliamentarians have recommended the integration of refugees into local communities as a way of decongesting the Tongogara Refugee Camp here.
The Tongogara camp is home to refugees from countries in the Great Lakes region; Burundi, Tanzania, the DRC and Rwanda as well as countries in the Horn of Africa; Somalia and Eritrea.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services chairperson, Levi Mayihlome said they were contemplating forging a partnership with the Chipinge Town Council so they could build houses and other facilities that could accommodate refugees to stay with Zimbabweans.
He said this after touring the facility recently.
“Another issue we discussed as a committee was forging a partnership with the Chipinge Town Council to construct houses and other facilities that will enable refugees to go and stay together with Zimbabweans,” said Mayihlome.
He also said they were working closely with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to ensure the well-being of refugees was taken care of.
“In terms of our work as the parliamentary portfolio committee, we are working very well with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to ensure the well-being of the refugees is taken care of,” he said.
He added his committee was dealing with the issue of refugees from Tongogara Camp who were currently incarcerated at the Chikurubi Maximum Prison and Harare Remand Prison.
“When we toured Chikurubi Maximum Prison and Harare Remand (Prison), we saw some refugees from this camp with (valid) identity cards. These are some of the issues we are currently dealing with,” he said.
Tongogara Refugee Camp administrator Johanne Mhlanga told the committee the government had availed 50 hectares of land for irrigation projects and has allowed refugees to start small enterprises such as grocery shops, cosmetology shops, among others.
“In view of the protracted nature of the refugee situation, our government with its partners is promoting self-reliance and livelihoods in the camp through supporting various income generating projects,” he said.
Mhlanga said the country’s porous borders particularly with Mozambique had contributed to an influx of refugees and asylum seekers at the camp.
“Our porous borders are a cause for concern as this has contributed to an influx of refugees and asylum seekers,” he said.
He added life at the camp was worsened by its proximity to Save River and it was prone to flooding during the rain season.
“As this is not enough, human-wildlife conflict is also a cause for concern due to the camp’s proximity to the Save Conservancy,” Mhlanga said, adding some of the refugees have been attacked and injured by wild animals.