JOHANNESBURG – The Pan-African Parliament has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which seeks find a sustainable solution to forced displacement in Africa.
The two signed the MoU on the sidelines of the second ordinary session of the 5th Pan-African Parliament, in Midrand, Johannesburg.
It came hard on the heels of presentations and debates on this year’s African Union theme, “2019 the year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa”.
The MoU also seeks to establish a framework of cooperation for the parties to engage in mutually beneficial information sharing, consultation, knowledge exchange and to cooperate, on projects, studies and events of mutual interest.
Speaking on behalf of the Pan-African Parliament was its President Roger Nkodo Dang, who expressed optimism in the manner in which the issue of refugees and stateless people would be tackled going forward.
“What has happened here is a great milestone towards the eradication of the root cause of forced displacements,” said Mr Dang. “It is our hope from here to go to the ground and visit all refugee camps in the continent and the globe so as to come up with tangible solutions.”
The UNHCR was represented by its representative to the African Union, Cosmas Chanda, who expressed pleasure at being part of the milestone.
“Any attempt to permanently eradicate statelessness and forced displacements is a milestone to us, hence we are pleased to be associated with such good works and we promise hundred percent of actualization of the MoU contents,” he said.
Meanwhile during the presentations on the theme of the year in the chamber, Chanda confirmed Africa had the largest refugee population, which he put at a third of the world’s population. Chanda said seven million of Africa’s people were stateless and seeking asylum. He was however, optimistic that the Global Compact of Refugees initiative being rolled out in 15 countries, eight of them African countries, would ease pressure on refugee-hosting nations.
Mutsa Mugangavari, senior legal advisor with the International Committee of the Red Cross, called on the African legislators to help develop mechanisms that would allow displaced people to work and contribute to the development of their host communities. He said that would ensure that refugees become reliant agents of development in their adopted communities.
Professor Carol Batchelor, Special Advisor on Statelessness at UNHCR, believed Europe was to blame for most of the troubles of refugees and statelessness bedeviling Africa, adding Europe’s policy of closing borders in Africa should be questioned.
She said Europe was unashamedly closing borders not in Europe but in Africa, restricting movements of Africans, something she said had dire consequences, as many people had died in Libya due to the invincible wall built on the South of Mediterranean Sea.
“Is it not open borders that have provided peace to Europe? Why then is it impossible for Africa? Why close borders in Africa?” asked Prof Batchelor.