2014/Zambia/Local Integration of Former Refugees

Below is the Executive Summary. Click here for the full report (PDF).



A two-person team funded by PRM traveled to Zambia from February 1-24, 2014 to conduct a field evaluation of local integration of former Angolan refugees. The team interviewed over 200 former Angolan refugees, including a mix of men and women, all age groups, those who live in the government settlements and those who have self-settled, as well as those from the first wave of refugees (starting in 1966) and the second wave (starting in the late 1990s and those that arrived from 2000 to 2002). The team also interviewed Zambians in the host communities, traditional leaders, and officials from the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ), the Government of the Republic of Angolan (GRA), partner governments, UNHCR, UNICEF, IOM, and the World Bank.


The team found that the Angolans have been integrated economically and socially and that a plan is in motion for their legal integration. Although their status as refugees ended on June 30, 2012, they are still considered persons of concern for the GRZ and UNHCR and will be beneficiaries of the Strategic Framework for the Local Integration of Former Refugees in Zambia. In many ways the Angolans have become integrated economically and are self-reliant. Like many Zambians, they still struggle to feed their families and pay school fees for their children, but they no longer rely on UNHCR assistance. Their economic integration will be complete once they are legally integrated, gaining ownership of land, enjoying freedom of movement, and having all the rights of Zambians in terms of working in the formal economy. Socially, the Angolans are fully integrated with Zambians as they attend school and church with each other, they play sports and celebrate holidays together, and they intermarry. In both of the two current settlements – Mayukwayukwa and Meheba – the Angolans and Zambians who live side-by-side share cultural, ethnic, and linguistic ties. The Angolans feel safe and protected in Zambia and consider it home.

The next major opportunity for Angolans is to become legally integrated. This process has begun with the GRZ offering permanent residency to 10,000 Angolans who will then be eligible for citizenship in ten years. This generous offer also includes discounts for the residency permits from the GRZ and UNHCR covering the remaining costs. The GRA is facilitating this process by providing, at no cost to the former Angolan refugees, National Registration Cards (NRCs) and Angolan passports, which are required as part of the documentation process. As of February 2014, around 6,000 Angolans have applied for the local integration program and there is full confidence in both the GRZ and the GRA that this process will continue to move forward. Among the hundreds of people interviewed by the evaluation team, no doubt was expressed in either governments’ commitment, only concerns that the process is moving slowly and that full and accurate information has not yet been made available to the Angolans about the documentation process or the other aspects of the local integration program. Additionally, for many Angolans, the only form of identification they currently have is their UNHCR refugee cards, which are now expired, so they are feeling vulnerable without proper identification.

An unintended positive consequence of the documentation process is that the GRA’s outreach to Angolans in Zambia has increased the former refugees’ confidence in the GRA and increased their desire to return to Angola. Unfortunately, it has also had an unintended negative consequence. The GRZ’s offer for permanent residency is currently only open to Angolans who arrived in Zambia between 1966 and 1986, leaving those who arrived after 1986 and who do not wish to return to Angola, feeling discriminated against and anxious about their future. Many believe that they will be forced to return to Angola.

The next stage in the local integration program will be to provide additional land for the Angolans to cultivate alongside an equal number of Zambians. This land will come with a subsidized agricultural package consisting of seed and fertilizer, and the opportunity to acquire a title deed after successfully farming the land for two years. While the offer of additional land is generous and welcome, it does require that a majority Angolans who qualify for the local integration program to move to an area designated for the local integration program. This is being met by resistance of some who have established homes, farms, and businesses after living in the settlements for many decades. In addition to concerns over what they will be leaving, they also have concerns about what the resettlement area, i.e., plot size, quality of soil and the amount of work required to prepare for cultivation, water, housing, schools, clinics, roads, bridges, markets, etc. Similarly, those who do not qualify for local integration may be required to move out of the area designated for local integration and are uncertain about where they will go and how they will be treated since they have no status and no formal identification papers.


Overall, the efforts of GRZ and UNHCR that have been made in Zambia since the arrival of the first wave of Angolan refugees in 1966 have resulted in a population of Angolans who have integrated well into their host communities in Zambia, both socially and economically. The success in the social integration can be attributed, in part, to the shared cultural, ethnic, and linguistic ties, but also to the welcoming attitudes of the Zambians toward the Angolans, the respect that the Angolans show for the culture and the traditional leadership of the Zambians, and the ease with which Angolans and Zambians mix socially. The evaluation team did not interview Zambians outside the host communities, so the team only has a limited amount of information to report on how self-settled Angolans have integrated and cannot predict how well the government-settled Angolans will integrate once they are granted full freedom of movement under the local integration program. The economic integration has been facilitated by the GRZ’s wisdom and generosity in providing access to land for the Angolans upon arrival in Zambia, as well as full access to schools and health clinics, and relative ease leaving the settlement for casual labor opportunities. Certainly the key factors have been in place for social and economic integration.

Among donor governments and government-settled refugees interviewed there is confidence in the GRZ’s commitment to provide a pathway to citizenship and therefore complete integration of the former Angolan refugees in Zambia over the next few years. Similarly, the Angolan government is cooperating fully and is keeping their commitment to provide the required documentation free of charge to the former refugees. Additionally, the GRZ’s offer and process for larger plots of land, along with agricultural inputs, will help strengthen self-reliance of the

Angolans. The refugees that qualify for the local integration are cautiously optimistic, but the refugees who do not qualify are concerned. As a whole, many enabling factors are being put into place for the local integration program to succeed, paving the way for Zambia to serve as a model for local integration of refugees.

While many enabling factors are in place, there are also potential barriers to successful implementation of the local integration program. One of the major concerns is whether sufficient resources will be secured to fund the three-year local integration program and whether there will be the same level of commitment to fund the Zambia-Angola resettlement as there has been to fund the GRZ’s existing resettlement schemes. There is also the potential for resistance from the former Angolan refugees who are eligible for local integration when they will be required to move out of the refugee area. The potential for resistance is even greater among the Angolans who do not wish to repatriate and are not eligible to live in the resettlement area and no longer qualified to live in the refugee settlement.

To address these issues, and others raised in the findings, the evaluation team offers the following recommendations to increase the likelihood of success of Zambia’s program to locally integrate the former Angolan refugees. In terms of timing, the recommendations regarding documentation should be implemented immediately, as this component is now in progress, and the recommendations about information campaigns should also be given top priority; the other recommendations should be implemented in the next three to six months, assuming the local integration program stays on schedule. In terms of resources to implement the recommendations, for any actions directed toward the GRZ and GRA, it is recommended that these actions be funded by the respective governments. Additionally, it is recommended that Donor Governments and UNHCR participate in funding the three-year local integration program, with a special focus on the basic infrastructure required.

Documentation/Alternative Legal Status

1. GRZ should expand the criteria for local integration to include all Angolans, not just those who arrived between 1966 and 1986. This will help reach the target of 10,000 and address the issues among those who do not currently qualify for local integration. This may also result in the unintended positive consequence of more Angolans choosing to return as they gain confidence in the GRA.

2. GRA should increase the size of the teams processing documentation to expedite the provision of National Registration Cards and passports so that the next steps in the local integration program can move forward. Expediting the documentation process will also increase the confidence of the former Angolan refugees and partner governments that are potential donors to the local integration program.

3. GRZ should expedite the process of offering Alien cards to all former Angolan refugees, and possibly reduce the cost, so that they have a valid form of identification while waiting to complete the process for local integration or returning to Angola.

4. GRZ, working with UNHCR, should expedite their plans for an information campaign to provide full and accurate information about the documentation process, both verbally and in writing, so that the former refugees can make informed decisions about the opportunity for local integration or repatriation and to ease their anxiety levels. The verbal and written communications should be in the major languages and outline all the currently known information, step-by-step and include frequently asked questions. Additional information can be presented in subsequent communications.

Relocating/Integrated Resettlement Program

5. GRZ, in collaboration with UNHCR, should expand the information campaign to provide details about the plan for the “resettlement” area, plot sizes, agricultural packages, and the social services. The campaign should include community meetings where the former refugees are given the opportunity to provide input and feedback, especially about the layout of the resettlement area and the timing for moving to the area. Traditional leaders in the area should be given routine updates and opportunities for providing input and should be considered as participants to this process. The GRZ should take the lead in the information campaign to emphasize that it is a GRZ program and that UNHCR’s role with the former Angolan refugees is phasing out.

6. GRZ and UNHCR should ensure that all basic infrastructure is in place before any of the former refugees are required to move to the resettlement area. Donor Governments need to come forward with funding immediately to address the basic infrastructure needs, as Canada has. This will ease the anxiety of those who are concerned about moving into the bush, as they assume it is, and minimize the disruptions in school and health care, among other things.

7. GRZ should rethink the current plans for housing in the resettlement area, which includes providing cement, doors, and window (but no roof) and requires a 25 percent co-share with the former Angolan refugees, as well as the Zambians who will live in the resettlement area. In rethinking the plans, they should consult with Habitat for Humanity or other organizations that have successfully used approaches for community participation in designing and building houses in a rural setting.

8. GRZ should network and coordinate with national and international NGOs that are currently implementing credit schemes in the provinces where the settlements are located.

9. GRZ, through the Ministry of Agriculture, should provide expanded extension services in the first few years of the local integration program. This will help both the Angolans and Zambians maximize the productivity of the land that they will be cultivating.

10. GRZ should start considering how they will approach the unique challenges of governance in the resettlement area. Careful consideration should be given to the role of traditional leaders. In addition, the role of UNHCR must come to an end and the population must not look to UNHCR for protection or services but rather to the GRZ to fulfill this and/or civil society organizations and/or the traditional leadership mechanisms. It is also worth considering the community-driven development approach that was pioneered by the World Bank, USAID, and others, and subsequently adapted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) for post conflict situations. See Attachment C for IRC’s manual on Community Driven Reconstruction that can easily be applied to this resettlement scheme.

Advocacy for Refugee Affected Areas

11. UNCHR should work with host communities to establish a system for monitoring the reproduction of fish, chickens, and bees that are part of the Quick Impact Projects. The benefiting community should provide the resources for the monitoring system to ensure that there is a continuous source of new fish, chickens and/or bees as current populations are either harvested or naturally die out.

Recommended Practices from Zambia for other Countries considering Local Integration

Local integration successes and practices are largely dependent on the political, social, and economic environment of the host country and the country of origin of protracted refugee situations. The national laws, cultural differences, the historical events, and the reason for the original conflict that caused the refugee situation are so varied from one region to another. These variations have an effect on how local integration can or cannot be implemented. Therefore, recommended practices for local integration from one protracted refugee situation to another is limited. Nevertheless, the evaluation team highlights the following practices from GRZ and GRA that can apply to current or future local integration programs.

12. Provide a national identification card and passport from the refugees’ country of origin. Providing this necessary identification guarantees full protection and no risk of statelessness or temporary “in limbo” status for the refugees.

13. Provide designated areas of land and allocate land for both the refugees and host country citizens to settle and form a new community or expand an existing community. This is especially relevant when the refugees predominantly rely on agricultural livelihoods. It is preferable that this land be near the area where refugees originally settled, which will allow for greater integration, as the refugees will already be known by these communities.