February 19, 2008

New plan for receiving Zimbabwe refugees

South Africa is preparing a better contingency plan to handle the potential increase in the number of Zimbabwean refugees when elections are held by the end of March. Tara Polzer, of the Forced Migration Project at the University of the Witwatersrand, said a plan was being prepared by the government with assistance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The blueprint was a product of the provincial and local government department’s national disaster management centre. But the lead agency was expected to be the home affairs department, which could not comment yesterday. Although similar contingency preparations were in place for Zimbabweans during the 2002 and 2005 polls, those plans involved arrangements for the immediate welfare needs of people crossing the border and some discussion on their registration. The new plan was expected to be better because "there is a clearer allocation of departmental responsibilities Polzer hoped the latest plan would clarify how South Africa would deal with the arrivals beyond the immediate period and with Zimbabweans already in South Africa. The plan should also address the continuing deportations of Zimbabweans from South Africa. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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