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New UNHCR Regional Director pays virtual courtesy call on the Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors

East African Community Headquarters, Arusha, Tanzania, 10th July, 2020The new UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Regional Director for the East and Horn of Africa and Great Lakes Region, Ms. Clementine Awu Nkweta Salami, today paid a virtual courtesy call on the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors, Hon. Christophe Bazivamo.

The overall purpose of the Courtesy call was to introduce the new Regional Director, UNHCR Nairobi, Kenya Office, to the EAC Secretariat and reinvigorate the existing relations between the EAC and the UNHCR in view of the emerging challenges of the refugees in the EAC region.

Hon. Christophe Bazivamo, on behalf of the EAC Secretary General Amb. Liberat Mfumukeko, congratulated the Regional Director on her new assignment and expressed hope that the EAC and UNHCR would make great strides in implementing joint initiatives in the management of the refugees problem in the region.

Hon. Bazivamo observed that the EAC and UNHCR signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 9th March, 2010 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The MoU provides a framework for cooperation and both parties have continued to work together to implement activities geared towards development and harmonisation of Partner States’ refugee policies and laws, implementation of free movement of persons as enshrined in the EAC Common Market Protocol and the development of common mechanisms for management of refugees.

Hon. Bazivamo said that under Article 124 of the Treaty, Peace and Security are prerequisites for social and economic development of the Community and vital to the achievement of the objectives of the EAC.

“Accordingly, one of the strategies for the realisation of the intentions of the aforesaid Article, coming up with putting in place a common mechanism of management of refugees in the Community. It should be noted that the influx of refugees in the Community can hinder the citizens from reaping the benefits of integration since it may impact on the successful implementation of the EAC Customs Union, Common Market and Monetary Union protocols that are critical steps towards the EAC Political Federation,” said Hon. Bazivamo.

“The Community envisages a situation where even if refugees exist, they should benefit from government programmes such as education, health, employment and free movement and active participation in the socio-economic activities in the Community,” said the DSG.

The DSG highlighted areas that UNHCR has been supporting including capacity building in refugee management such as financial and technical support to conduct a study on the study on harmonisation of refugee policies and legislation in the EAC in 2012.

“A Consultant was also hired to develop a draft EAC policy on refuge management in the FY 2018/19. The UNHCR has also been supporting and participating in the meetings of the EAC Refugee Technical Working Group and the EAC Chiefs of Refugee Management Entities,” added the DSG.

“Following, the collaboration of both organisations, a draft Policy on the EAC Refugee Management was developed following the guidance provided during the meeting of Chiefs of Refugee Management Entities and UNHCR Technical Experts held on 17th May, 2019. The draft Policy was transmitted to the EAC Partner States for final review in October 2019 and the EAC Partner States are expected to have finalised the national consultations in September 2020,” he said.

“Upon finalisation of the national consultations, a regional meeting will be convened of the Chiefs of Refugee Management and the UNHCR before the revised draft Policy is presented to the Sectoral Council on Interstate Security for approval and the Council of Ministers for adoption. It is envisaged that the Policy will be adopted during the Council sitting in November 2020,” said Hon. Bazivamo.

He called for closer cooperation between both organisations to avoid duplication of efforts towards addressing the plight of refugees in the region and suggested that the technical experts of both organisations should discuss modalities to address quick wins identified in the meeting as the policy was being finalised.

The UNHCR Regional Director, Ms. Nkweta Salami, emphasised UNHCR’s passion and commitment towards addressing the rights of refugees such as on access to territory, social services, employment, mutual recognition of academic qualifications, movement and peaceful settlement of returning refugees among the local communities, creating durable solutions to the refugee crisis in the region; and inclusion of refugee activities in the Corvid- 19 interventions and plans of action at regional and national levels.

The Regional Director indicated that UNHCR had developed further input and comments to inform the draft policy so as to make it comprehensive to address refugee matters in the region and would submit the same for inclusion during the finalisation of the same. She also pledged technical and capacity building support towards the realisation of the roadmap for the completion and Policy Action plan.

Notes to Editors:

The need to develop a common mechanism on refugee management is stipulated in Articles 124 of the Treaty; 10 of the EAC Peace and Security Protocol and 7 (8) of the EAC Common Market Protocol.

The EAC and UNHCR signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 9th March 2010 in Dar- Es Salaam, Tanzania. The MoU, which provides a framework for cooperation, was signed by Amb. Juma Volter Mwapachu, the then EAC Secretary General and Mr. Oluseyi Bajalaiye, the UNHCR Representative Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Since then, both parties have continued to work together to implement activities geared towards realisation of the areas of cooperation contained in the MoU. Article II of the MoU provides for following areas of cooperation:

  1. Conflict prevention and peace building;
  2. Early warning and response;
  3. Movement of Persons, Immigration and Refugee Management;
  4. Human trafficking and mixed migration population movements; and
  5. Promotion and protection of human rights in East Africa.

 In 2012, the UNHCR provided technical assistance to the EAC Secretariat to undertake a study titled “Harmonization of Refugee Policies and Legislation in the East African Community: Present Status and Future.” The study recommended the development of an EAC Policy. The draft Policy was developed in May 2019 and is in the Partner States for further consultations.

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For more information, please contact:

Simon Peter Owaka
Senior Public Relations Officer
Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Department
EAC Secretariat
Arusha, Tanzania
Tel: +255 768 552087
Email: sowaka [at] eachq.org

About the East African Community Secretariat:

The East African Community (EAC) is a regional intergovernmental organisation of six Partner States, comprising Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.

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