Conflicts in southern Africa and neighbouring regions over the years have resulted in the movement of millions of refugees seeking asylum in neighbouring countries. SADC as a region has recognised the need to balance the potential security risks associated with hosting refugees against the benefit of regional integration that encourages the movement of people for economic development.
Article 28 of the Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons mandates that Member States adhere to relevant international agreements to which they are parties, including the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Under the Protocol SADC Member States affirm their commitment to co-operate with the International Organisation for Migration and the Office of the UN High Commission for Refugees on matters relating to refugees.
Related to this commitment, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Member States and the UN High Commission for Refugees in 1996 that governs management of refugees in the region. The Memorandum of Understanding commits Member States to address the social, economic and political issues in the Southern African region that have a bearing on the root causes of forced population displacement, refugee protection, provision of humanitarian assistance and the search for durable solutions.
The Strategic Indicative Plan
The Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation outlines strategies for social reintegration of refugees. Under Objective 3 - “To prevent, contain and resolve inter and intra- state conflict by peaceful means”- recommended strategies include:
- Establish a common understanding on the target groups for reintegration and identify partners for funding;
- Develop a hand book on social reintegration;
- Share the best experience and practices of the region on social reintegration of demobilised combatants, refugees and internally displaced persons; and
- Organise training workshops and seminars.