The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has commended the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for having endorsed the Joint Action Plan between the two organisations which seeks to end statelessness, improve the asylum systems and reduce the backlog of 281,000 asylum seekers, provide capacity to review policies and procedures for asylum decision, and consider refugees as human capita who can contribute to the development of the economy of their host countries in the Region.
This came out when UNHCR Director for Regional Bureau for Southern Africa, Mr Valentin Tapsoba, and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Regional Director for Southern Africa, Mr Ashraf El Nour, who are both based in Pretoria, South Africa, met with His Excellency Elias M. Magosi, the SADC Executive Secretary on 28th February 2023 in Gaborone, Botswana. The purpose of the courtesy call was to discuss issues of common interest and further explore potential areas of deepening cooperation.
SADC and UNHCR cooperate closely through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) revised in 2019. The MoU provides for cooperation in promoting the implementation of the UN General Assembly Resolutions, including the Global Compact on Refugees, promoting the objectives of the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness, and accession to international and African continental instruments related to refugees, stateless persons, and internally displaced persons, and promoting the management of mixed migratory movements within and into the SADC Region.
Regarding climate change, Mr Tapsoba said UNHCR is increasingly focused on adapting their programming, partnerships, and capacities to prepare for climate change’s implications by strategically working with others to anticipate for and mitigate the vulnerabilities and needs being multiplied by conflict and climate change.
“SADC and the UNHCR have a unique opportunity to work together as they both have pertinent shared priorities, values and strategies,” he said.
H.E Magosi appreciated the support of the UNHCR at both regional and national levels; affirmed SADC’s commitment to the principles enshrined in the various international conventions and protocols governing asylum; and encouraged the UNHCR to collaborate with SADC on the implementation of the Regional Migration Policy Framework.
H.E Magosi and Mr El Nour discussed, among other issues, the cooperation between SADC and IOM which is been facilitated by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in 2016, which is still in force and provides for cooperation in areas of, among others, labour migration; counter trafficking; combatting smuggling and irregular migration; addressing mixed migration; migration health and immigration and border management.
H. E Magosi noted the cordial relationship which exists between SADC and IOM with potential to deepen cooperation and proposed the implementation of the Regional Migration Policy Framework 2020-203, implementation of the SADC Labour Migration Action Plan and Joint Action on the Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa (MIDSA)
The SADC Executive Secretary was accompanied by Ms. Kealeboga Moruti, Senior Officer, Public Security and Acting Director at the Directorate of Organ in Politics, Defence and Security Affairs and Mr. Alex Banda, Senior Advisor from Disaster Risk Reduction Unit.