Refugees engulfed by scandals
The Caritas Swaziland Refugee Programme, being the sole implementing partner to the UNHCR in Swaziland provides services that promote the local integration of refugees and asylum seekers. Our Primary responsibility remains the provision of an integrated assistance package comprising education, psychosocial counseling, legal assistance, medical care and until recently business management training. The drive towards the attainment of durable solutions for the refugee population is a central feature of the refugee program, particularly given the incumbent local integration theme- a direct consequence of diminished resources.
Over the past two month period, the hitherto peaceful refugee protection leadership has been altered by somewhat by unfortunate events never before recorded in recent history. This report serves to reveal in detail, circumstances surrounding the events under discussion.
Malindza Fire Incidents
- On the morning of Saturday 22 November 2014, at tent fire in Malindza reportedly started by an unknown person claimed the life of a 5 year old boy (Enock Tuwushimwe) from Rwanda. Enock, who had arrived on 1 July 2013 with his parents was subsequently buried on Saturday 20 November 2014 (at a request of his parents who belong to the seventh Day Adventist Church.
- In the early hours of Tuesday, 10 December 2014, another tent was set alight. Fortunately the occupant, Mr Clovis Kwizera a 30 year old single male from Burundi who arrived on 30 September 2010 was not in the tent hence he was unscathed.
- Sadly, at approximately 3.00 a.m. in the morning of 11 December 2014, yet another tent fire broke out, in the process claiming the innocent soul of a 12 year old boy (Jonas Niyonkuru ) from the DRC who arrived in Swaziland on 8 October 2013 with his parents . His sister, Devota, who suffered second degree burns is presently recuperating at the Good Shepherd Hospital which is the Reception Centre nearest referral hospital (22km from the Malindza Refugee Camp. Jonas was laid to rest on 20 December 2014.
- As a direct consequence of the afore-going, Caritas Swaziland, together with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Royal Swaziland Police have acted in concert to ensure that security, material support including psycho-social/spiritual counseling is accorded the affected families. Presently, there is a 24 hour presence at the Reception Centre to curtail potential threats and subsequent loss of life. The state Police have given the assurance that it is only a matter of time before the source of these devilish acts is identified.
On the morning of 10 December, Swaziland woke up to a newspaper headlines reporting that a group of 7 Somali asylum-seekers (later increased to 9) had staged a demonstration within the precincts of the UN system cluster building which houses UN agencies including UNDP, whose head, the Resident Coordinator Mr Israel Dessalegne was reportedly their prime candidate for registering their grievances. Amidst frantic top level consultations between UNHCR and the Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs, the decision was taken that Mr Anthony Masilela, Principal Secretary-Ministry of Home Affairs grant them an audience where-in he assured the asylum seekers that their concerns would be considered and addressed speedily, ideally with the involvement and cooperation of the group under discussion. Essentially, the asylum seekers registered their desire to be returned home as they blamed unbearable living conditions in Swaziland as one of their major banes.
Pursuant to the fore-going , the UNHCR Regional Representative for Southern Africa, Madame Clementine Nkweta Salami, in the company of Ms Margaret Atieno, UNHCR Senior Regional Protection Officer mounted an urgent mission to Swaziland from 14-16 December 2014 at the invitation of the Minister of Home Affairs ,HRH Princess Tsandzila in a bid to gain first hand appreciation of the nature and scope of the issues at hand.
At the conclusion of the high level consultations on Monday 15 December 2014, there was a general agreement on the need for cautious yet concerted effort towards crafting a durable solution in this regard, with all indications pointing to more conclusive discussions in early January 2015.