Global Compact for Refugees - UNHCR



Zambia’s history in providing international protection and assistance to refugees dates back to the 1940s when the first wave of refugees arrived from Poland. Since then, the country has hosted refugees from Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Namibia Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Zambia currently hosts over 74,652 persons of concern (as of 31 August 2018) – including 47,985 refugees ( 83% of whom are from the Democratic Republic of Congo), 22,740 Rwandan and Angolan former refugees and 3,927 asylums seekers. The vast majority of refugees in Zambia live in one of the three refugee settlements, Mayukwayukwa, Meheba and the newly established Mantapala settlement. Thousands more live in the capital Lusaka or in other urban centres such as Ndola, and a few thousands have self-settled in five provinces across Zambia. Since August 2017, Zambia has been receiving an increasing number of refugees fleeing the ongoing conflict in the DRC. Most of them are arriving through informal and formal border crossings in Luapula Province in the north. As the influx continues, it is anticipated that by the end of 2018, Zambia will host 76,000 refugees from the DRC.

Towards a more comprehensive refugee response

One day after all 193 Member States of the UN General Assembly committed to taking steps for improved and more sustainable protection for refugees and migrants in the historical New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, the Government of the Republic of Zambia made a number of landmark commitments at the UN Leaders’ Summit on Refugees towards improving the lives and rights of refugees living in Zambia. Specifically, the Head of State, President Edgar Lungu pledged to:

  1. Locally integrate eligible Angolans and Rwandans; extend the local integration programme to protracted Congolese refugees;
  2. Consider relaxing the encampment policy, allowing for more freedom of movement for refugees by easing the process for acquiring urban residency and permission to leave the refugee settlements;
  3. Promote self-reliance and enhance favourable measures for refugees to access work and engage in income generating activities of their choice;
  4. Focus on ensuring access to education for refugee children through the provision of education infrastructure in the refugee settlements;
  5. Simplify its admission procedures for a fair Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process; and
  6. Ensure that refugees have access to civil registration and other legal documents.


Strategic roll-out of the CRRF

The new 2017 Refugee Act provides the legislative prerequisites for the application of comprehensive refugee responses in Zambia, including granting refugees access to territory and the provision of protection and identification of solutions. The new Act represents a significant shift from the 1970 Refugee Control Act whereby the Government broadens the scope of rights for refugees, including taking steps to implement a settlement approach, granting refugees a variety of rights and access to services such as right to property and access to justice, and facilitating permanent residency or naturalization as alternative legal statuses. Building on the 7th National Development Plan (7NDP) which was launched in 2017 to cover the period from 2017-2022, and the National Decentralization Policy, the Government, including district and provincial authorities, is working on greater inclusion and self-reliance of marginalized populations, including refugees, ensuring that refugee-hosting areas are included in development plans. As such, an inter-ministerial committee appointed by the President to lead and coordinate the response toward the Congolese refugee emergency was put in place in February 2018, establishing a coordination structure at national level. Technical committees at local and provincial level are also under development with the support of humanitarian and development partners. In general, the CRRF roll-out in Zambia will focus on the areas of i) admission and rights, ii) inclusion of refugees into national service delivery programmes, iii) self-reliance and access to livelihoods, and iv) durable solutions including local integration and third-country solutions.

Key partnerships 

The Government is seeking to ensure that the response to the Congolese influx is comprehensively addressed. The Ministry of Home Affairs, key line ministries, including the Ministry of Health, of Local Government and Housing, of Community Development and Social Services, of the Office of the Vice-President, of General Education and of Defence, have been mandated to coordinate the Congolese emergency response. United Nations organisations are working under the “Delivering as One” approach, led by the UN Resident Coordinator, involving humanitarian and development agencies working in close collaboration with local and international NGOs that are responding to the influx on the ground. Meanwhile, discussions are underway with international financial institutions and the private sector to explore collaboration towards more sustainable responses.

Current challenges

  • Inadequate reception capacity for small and large influxes of DRC refugees: Since August 2017, over 20,000 Congolese refugees have sought international protection in Zambia. The operation is now observing a downward arrival trend although there are serious indications that more Congolese residing in Lubumbashi area may start seeking asylum in North-Western and the Copperbelt provinces. UNHCR is assisting in enhancing preparedness activities including pre-positioning of core relief items (CRIs) and constructing WASH facilities as a means to proactively anticipate a large influx of refugees.
  • Encampment policy: Although Zambia’s vision is to relax its encampment policy and provide more freedom of movement to refugees through a settlement approach, challenges regarding access to livelihoods and wage employment, financial services and other opportunities for refugees represent a significant challenge for refugees in achieving self-reliance.
  • Access to livelihoods: The Government allocates a crop of land to every refugee household living in the settlements. The size of plots varies depending on the location, and while refugees are encouraged to grow their own crops, the outputs are insufficient to provide sustainable income and the production remains at basic subsistence levels.
  • Access to education for all girls and boys:  Refugees’ access to secondary and tertiary education requires study permits (issued by the Department of Immigration) for those wishing to attend school outside of the refugee settlements. However the costs of the permits are high and must be borne by refugees themselves.


Operational and funding needs to deliver on a comprehensive refugee response

Inclusion of refugees in local and national development plans: In order to ensure that refugees enjoy social and economic services, refugee-hosting districts are encouraged to include refugees in their district development plans.

Resettlement: Third-country solutions for vulnerable refugees need to be further pursued. The resettlement target for Zambia in 2018 is at 1,200, although needs are much higher.

Partnerships: New and stronger partnerships towards comprehensive responses must expanded and consolidated. Line ministries, UN Agencies, NGOs, the international community, international financial institutions, philanthropic organisations, the private sector and other partners must actively mobilise, including to attract investment and long-term development projects in refugee-hosting areas.

Funding: The UNHCR Zambia operation requires over USD 32million for its refugee response in 2018. Further resource mobilization and partner engagement are required to reduce the 79% funding gap for the Zambia chapter of DRC Regional Refugee Response Plan. As part of the Regional Refugee Response Plan for the DRC situation, of which several UN Agencies and civil organizations are part, Zambia will require over USD 74million to address the continuous emergency needs of Congolese refugees in the country. In 2018, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) contributed USD 6,5 million to the UN in Zambia, supporting UNHCR, UNICEF, UNFPA, IOM, WHO and WFP for the Congolese Emergency response.

CRRF Contact persons in the Zambia Operation

Giulia Ricciarelli-Ranawat (

Daniel Garcia (

Way forward

Under the leadership of the Commissioner for Refugees (COR) within the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Government is developing a roadmap that will set the strategic direction and formalise the comprehensive refugee response in Zambia. To this end, the COR has recently recruited a CRRF focal point in his office, who will assist the Commissioner and partners in this process.



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Two Year Progress Assessment of the CRRF Approach (Sep 2016 - Sep 2018)

Afghanistan Belize Costa Rica Central America and Mexico Panama Uganda Zambia Guatemala Mexico Honduras Chad Djibouti Kenya Somali Situation Rwanda Ethiopia | Studies and reports
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This report was prepared by the Evaluation Service, UNHCR.

Published: 3 April, 2018 (4 months ago )
Uploaded: 3 April, 2018 (4 months ago )

Key Decisions of the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (January 2019)

Chad Djibouti Ethiopia Kenya Rwanda Zambia Uganda Africa Somali Situation | Notes/summaries
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The 32nd Ordinary Sessions of the AU Assembly was held on 10-11 February 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The theme they focused was on refugees, internally displaced persons and IDPs. The Summit officially launched the theme of the year and adopted a number of important decisions. To see the decisions, see the document attached. More information: here

Published: 3 April, 2018 (4 months ago )
Uploaded: 3 April, 2018 (4 months ago )

CRRF poster – Africa, December 2018

Chad Djibouti East and Horn of Africa Ethiopia Kenya Rwanda Somali Situation Uganda Zambia | CRRF posters
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This poster provides an overview of key developments in the African countries that are applying comprehensive refugee responses.

Published: 3 April, 2018 (7 months ago )
Uploaded: 3 April, 2018 (7 months ago )

Affiche du CRRF - Afrique, août 2018

Chad Djibouti Ethiopia Kenya Rwanda Somali Situation Uganda Zambia | CRRF posters
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Cette affiche donne un aperçu des principaux développements dans les pays africains qui appliquent des réponses globales pour les réfugiés.

Published: 3 April, 2018 (10 months ago )
Uploaded: 3 April, 2018 (10 months ago )

Zambia-UN Sustainable Development Partnership Framework 2016-2021

Zambia | UN Development Assistance Frameworks
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The United Nations (UN) System in Zambia and the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) have placed their collective aspirations for supporting transformation in this new and innovative Zambia–United Nations Sustainable Development Partnership Framework. The Partnership Framework fully reflects the high ambition of the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 and takes a strongly Human Rights Based Approach. The UN and the GRZ, acting in partnership, will coordinate closely in implementing the Partnership Framework and has been built from the outset with a shared purpose: Delivering Transformation as One. The Partnership Framework is valued at USD $806 million, and it aims to achieve transformational results in support of Zambia’s development priorities in the period of 2016-2021.

Published: 3 April, 2018 (11 months ago )
Uploaded: 3 April, 2018 (11 months ago )

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