Country Profiles Zambia

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A. Executive Summary

Zambia experiences substantial internal migration and emigration exceeds immigration. The international migrant stock for Zambia is 170,200. Zambia hosts a relatively small number of asylum seekers and refugees compared to other similarly situated African countries. Zambia is a generally stable country and, while it is a refugee-receiving country, does not produce many forced migrants; however, there are a significant number of internally displaced persons. Cases of both internal and cross-border human trafficking activities are continually increasing at an unprecedented rate in Zambia due to many factors. Many people become victims of human trafficking when they attempt to escape from the socio-economic circumstances that are affecting the lives of many people in rural areas. A greater percentage of citizens in Zambia are trafficked because of political violence and land-use changes. Some inexperienced Zambians are uninformed about immigration procedures and the dangers of travelling through non-border post routes. Zambia’s Immigration and Deportation Act of 2010 coupled with the 2017 Refugee Act govern the majority of matters concerning refugees and migrants. There are a number of civil society and faith-based organisations in Zambia that work with and assist immigrants and refugees. 

B. Country Profile

I. Basic Information

The Zambian population in 2020 was 17,885,422 people. Lusaka is Zambia’s capital and largest city, and Zambia has eight neighbouring countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo to the north; Tanzania to the north-east; Malawi to the east; Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia to the south; and Angola to the west. Environmental and social issues affecting Zambia include climate change, deforestation, pollution (especially in Copperbelt towns), poaching, wildlife depletion, soil erosion, desertification, poor sanitation, land degradation, extensive poverty, over-exploitation of resources, invasive species, poor education infrastructure, and health challenges, including high levels of HIV/AIDS. 

Zambia’s ethnic demographics are Bemba 21%, Tonga 13.6%, Chewa 7.4%, Lozi 5.7%, Nsenga 5.3%, Tumbuka 4.4%, Ngoni 4%, Lala 3.1%, Kaonde 2.9%, Namwanga 2.8%, Lunda 2.6%, Mambwe 2.5%, Luvale 2.2%, Lamba 2.1%, Ushi 1.9%, Lenje 1.6%, Bisa 1.6%, Mbunda 1.2%, other 13.8%, and unspecified 0.4% (2010 est.). Zambia is a predominantly Christian country, with the population being 75.3% Protestant, 20.2% Roman Catholic, 2.7% other religions, and 1.8% none (2010 est.).

II. Internal and International Migration

The national census of 2010 showed that 16.8% of people in Zambia resided elsewhere than where they were born. These statistics indicate that there is movement of citizens across various internal administrative jurisdictions in the country. People who have been migrating from one urban area to another constituted the highest category of internal migration in Zambia at 38.7%, followed by rural-to-urban migration at 30%. Rural-to-urban migration significantly increased from 14.9% in 2010 to 20.7% in 2015. Low levels of development in rural areas and centralized developmental planning are associated with internal migration favouring urban centres, which adds to the burden on services in those areas. The main reasons for internal migration were employment transfer of the breadwinner (19.9%) and the decision to resettle (17.7%). There was substantial secondary migration, probably the movement of dependents of breadwinners who moved.  The majority of these internal migrants were aged 60 to 64, an age group associated with retirement and retirement-related movement.

Immigrants to Zambia in 2019 numbered 170,200. The majority of these individuals were from the Democratic Republic of Congo, followed by those from Angola.  The 2010 national census of population and housing in Zambia is one of the primary sources of migration data; it counted an immigrant stock of 43,867, representing 0.4 per cent of the total population. that the gender split of immigrants was 53% male, 47% female.  The top 10 sources of immigrants are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Zimbabwe, India, Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania, South Africa, Somalia, the United Kingdom, and Burundi. According to UN DESA, in 2019 immigrants from the Republic of Congo and from Malawi also formed a significant proportion of Zambia’s international migrant stock. 

The total number of registered asylum seekers was 2,533 in the period of 2013 to 2017, 61% males and 39% females. During the same period 15,933 refugees (54% males and 46% females) were registered in Zambia. Of the registered asylum seekers and refugees, the majority were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while some of them originated in Burundi and Somalia. There was a new flow of refugees into the country towards the end of the second quarter of 2017. Between August 2017 and June 2018 there were a total of 13,753 new arrivals (refugees), and most of them were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2018 alone 9,233 new refugee arrivals were recorded, and at the end of 2019 there were 7,870 new arrivals, all with access to refugee status determination procedures.

III. Emigration and Skilled Migration

 It is estimated that a total of 278,355 people left Zambia in 2018 for various destinations around the world, and hence the emigrant stock constituted 1.6% of the total population of the country that year. The most popular destinations for these emigrants were South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, the United Kingdom, the United States, Botswana, the United Republic of Tanzania, Namibia, Australia, and Mozambique. In mid 2019 emigrants numbered 493,100.  The majority of emigrants leave Zambia to seek employment and educational opportunities. During the period of 2013 to 2017 an estimated 13,921 students left Zambia to study outside the country, the majority of them going to study in South Africa (17.9%), followed by those who went to Namibia (11.7%).

Data for immigrant flows, as captured through administrative records, showed that the total number of entries was higher than the number of exits in the 2013–2017, with a total number of entries of 7,547,285 across this period. During the same period the Department of Immigration issued 101,792 permits. Employment Permits were the most frequently issued, accounting for 49.4% of total permits issued, followed by Temporary Employment Permits that accounted for 19.5%.

IV. Forced Migration (IDPs, asylum seekers and refugees)

Zambia hosted 57,700 refugees in 2020 and received 7,870 individuals in 2019. According to UNHCR, at the end of February 2018 Zambia hosted more than 72,151 people, including 44,283 refugees, most of whom were Congolese (92%). “UNHCR in Zambia supports the government’s efforts to provide protection and assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers. These include safe and fair access to territory, asylum procedures and rights, inclusion in national services, self-reliance and opportunities to earn a living, and long-term measures such as integration into the host country and possible resettlement in third countries.” (See UNHCR – Zambia) In 2018 the figures slightly increased, with 49,734 refugees but only 3,291 asylum seekers, of which 17,866 Angolans and 4,976 Rwandans. 

The major refugee settlements are Meheba, in the North-Western province, and Mayukwayukwa, in the Western province. Refugees are treated like other foreigners seeking employment or self-employment (the immigration law requires them to apply for a work permit) but in addition, refugees need a supporting letter from the Office of the Commissioner for Refugees. If a refugee wishes to pursue self-employment as an investor in the private sector, they are required to demonstrate proof of investment up to US$ 250,000 if they want to start a new company, and up to US$ 150,000 if they are joining an existing company in Zambia.

In terms of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Zambia presents some more comforting statistics compared to those of other states: according to IDCM, only 21 people were displaced because of natural events in 2018, with 100 displaced between January and December 2019. The political stability and the absence of conflicts and civil war means that the issue of IDPs is minimal and limited to extraordinary catastrophes such as thunderstorms and floods. 

As highlighted in The New Humanitarian, however, forced internal displacement is not only caused by disasters or wars. In the case of Zambia, IDPs are not victims of conflict but of development projects that have dispossessed over 88,000 people since 2009. Forced displacement began in the 1950s when approximately 57,000 Tonga-speaking people were forced to move to allow construction of Kariba Dam. After a period of 60 years, these communities continued to experience food security and diminished standards of living. In recent years investments that include mining, tourism, agriculture, and industrial development were responsible for further displacement of people from various communities. Less privileged people in rural, urban, and peri-urban areas are the most vulnerable to displacement due to unrecognised land rights. 

In 2016 and 2017 the Human Right Watch established that more than 130 rural residents whose families had lived for years, and sometimes for generations, in Serenje District in Zambia’s Central Province have been forced to leave their areas of residence. 

In 2009, 54,000 people were recorded as internally displaced, while in 2013 the number dropped to 5,500, only to increase again the following year to 26,000. In 2017 there were 2,800 IDPs in the country. Displaced people are usually small-scale farmers living in rural areas, evicted by the government and relocated to far-off places where they have hardly any facilities. The land is then given to buyers and investors for so-called development projects, such as soybean and wheat crops, or mining, or used for government-led infrastructure projects that are expected to contribute Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the economy. Little or no compensation is given to the evicted, who see their conditions seriously impoverished; communities are also affected.

V. Victims of Human Trafficking

Zambia has a considerable number of human trafficking cases. Although internal trafficking exceeds cross-border trafficking, Zambia is a source, transit, and destination country for international trafficking – it shares borders with eight countries and has some remote points that are difficult to monitor. As a transit country Zambia is used for human trafficking from the Great Lakes to South Africa, while trafficked Zambians are sent to South Africa, Congo, and Namibia. 

Internal human trafficking goes from rural to urban areas and is increasing. Usually traffickers use community or family members to convince people to follow them, using the promise of scholarships or job opportunities. Men, who represent 58.5% of Zambian trafficking victims, are used especially in the agricultural and mining sectors, whereas women and children, who represent 60.6% of victims, are employed in domestic work or sexual servitude. Most of the trafficking takes place within the country’s borders. Victims of internal trafficking are usually women and children who are taken from rural areas to be exploited in urban areas. Children are mostly forced into illegal mining as well as loading copper ore into trucks in the Copperbelt Province. The most vulnerable children are orphans and street children. In some cases, both boys and girls are forced into sex trafficking by truck drivers in Zambian towns bordering Zimbabwe and Tanzania. Livingstone has been identified as one of the transit hotspots for human trafficking in Zambia. The main sources of victims are Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan.

Although the government is trying to fight human trafficking by implementing laws and controls and training police officers, it is still very difficult to discover, detain, and prosecute traffickers, who continue their illegal activity. Unfortunately, cooperation with and involvement of NGOs and international organisations such as IOM in the assistance and protection of trafficking victims are insufficient as the country lacks proper infrastructure and resources.

In 2019 the Zambian Police Service investigated 13 trafficking cases; the Department of Immigration initiated 28 investigations; and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS) Investigated 38 potential forced child-labour cases for a total of 79 investigations, compared to 22 in 2017.

While Zambia does not meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, it is still making significant efforts to improve. Its previous efforts to curb largescale human trafficking have contributed to its upgrade to Tier 2. Some of the efforts that were made include the prosecution of perpetrators and the training of law enforcement agents and immigration officials. The government also identified and referred victims to protective services. Proper shelter for women and young girls was refurbished, and the budget for anti-trafficking was increased. The government cooperated with neighbouring countries to share knowledge and expertise as part of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional cooperation initiative.

VI. National Legal Framework

The Immigration and Deportation Act of 2010 (replacing the original Act of 1965) regulates all migration matters, such as provisions for persons entering and leaving Zambia, immigration and residence permits, visas, border controls, and prohibitions on human trafficking. In 2017 the Refugee Act was promulgated. Through this Act the government ensures assistance and protection for any unaccompanied child, along with assistance to locate his/her parents and reunite with his/her family. When this is not possible, the child is accorded the same protection as any other minor deprived of his/her family. The Refugee Act also provides for the refugee status determination procedure and addresses refugee law fundamentals including the non-penalisation of irregular entry and presence in Zambia and the principle of non-refoulement.  

In the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Zambia was one of the first countries that thought of addressing human trafficking by enacting legislation that criminalised the act. On 26 September 2008 Zambia passed the Anti-Human Trafficking Act (No: 11 of 2008) in order to provide for the prohibition, prevention, and prosecution of human trafficking. The Act also provides for the filing of and dealing with matters related to human trafficking, especially when young people and women are involved. The Committee on Human Trafficking is responsible for the administration of this Act. 

A plan to create a Human Trafficking Fund to support victims of trafficking was discussed. The Act was to domesticate the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, which supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. Under this Act human traffickers could be sentenced to penalties that range from 20 years to life imprisonment. This law gave authority, ability, and prosecutorial powers to the police, immigration officers, and custom officials to bring to bear on any offender. 

The major role of the government in terms of the legislation is to address problems of human trafficking through legal reforms, law enforcement, education, and capacity building. Human trafficking was completely prohibited by the constitution of the Republic of Zambia. In 2005 Zambia became a State Party to the Trafficking Protocol. In trying to implement its international obligations, Zambia decided to pass its first law that was meant to thoroughly address human trafficking in the country. 

Regrettably the Republic of Zambia does not have other supporting policies or action plans to adequately address all aspects of human trafficking. An exception is the National Child Labour Policy that designates agencies that are tasked with addressing child labour issues. The National Action Plan for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour prioritises the improvement of child labour laws, protecting children from hazardous labour, strengthening institutional capacity to curb child labour, raising awareness of child labour issues, as well as establishing, monitoring, and evaluating systems. Zambia has ratified several regional and international laws for human rights, migration, asylum, and human trafficking issues. 

VII. Main Actors

The State

The main governmental institution responsible for migration policy in Zambia is the Department of Immigration, established in 1965. The department, which falls under the Ministry of Home Affairs and has its headquarters in Lusaka and its regional offices in all Zambia’s provinces, aims to regulate the entry and exit of people as well as their stay in the country in order to effectively increase internal security and sustainable socio-economic development. 

Since 2016 the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services has been among the main actors proactively working with the Zambia Department of Immigration to advance migration-related issues. The Ministry aims to reinforce the social protection system through social assistance, protection, and promotional services, while also promoting alternatives to detention, particularly for vulnerable children on the move.

The Ministry of Gender, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, and the Central Statistical Office are also engaged in addressing the country’s migration issues. On one hand, the Ministry of Gender is mandated to promote gender equality by encouraging the development of national policies adequately responding to the different circumstances affecting migrant men and women. On the other hand, the responsibility for the formulation and administration of labour and employment policies – both in terms of labour migration and not – is entrusted to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Child Development addresses the challenges faced by the youth in terms of unemployment, poverty, and vulnerability. Lastly, the Central Statistical Office, operating under the Census and Statistics Act, collects migration data to be included in the national data collection systems so as to make them available for policy development and planning. 

The Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) plays a core role in issues of internal displacement through the mitigation and prevention of displacement effects caused by natural and human-made disasters. The DMMU is mandated to effectively respond to all disasters while also putting in place preventive measures to reduce their negative effects. 

Another actor is the Zambia Law Development Commission who, in reviewing and developing the amendments of the Zambia’s Anti-Human Trafficking Act after it was established, determined that there were some difficulties in implementing the Act. One of the noted weaknesses of the Act was the non-compliance with the regional and international instruments on human trafficking. During the review and development of the amendments, other main actors that were carefully selected to participate in this cause included the Zambia Police Service, the Department of Immigration, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Ministry of Labour, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, the Ministry of Home Affairs, as well as the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

International Organisations

International organizations concerning migrants that operate in Zambia include the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Labour Organization (ILO), UNHCR, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and Doctors Without Borders. The European Union donated 1.6 million Euro for various government initiatives and programmes to combat human trafficking that were implemented through the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), as well as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). This funding was meant to support Zambia’s government programmes and activities, including research to establish the nature, extent, and drivers of internal trafficking for domestic work in Zambia and bring together government and non-government stakeholders involved in the response to trafficking in Zambia.  The IOM’s Counter Trafficking Assistance Programme is another organisation that is involved in activities that are meant to address human trafficking issues. 

The Catholic Church

There are a number of main Catholic Church actors with respect to migration. Firstly, the Catholic Commission for Development (CCD) (Caritas Zambia) plays a major role, as does Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) in Zambia. In 1994 the Zambia Episcopal Conference delegated JRS through the CCD to carry out the Church’s response to the issues of refugees in the country. JRS started an Urban Refugee Project in 1997 in Lusaka. JRS has always striven, through the Urban Refugee Project, to overcome the xenophobia which occasionally arises among Zambians by providing programmes which allow refugees and citizens to experience positive interaction and treat each other according to gospel values. 

Caritas Zambia has established a Refugee Livelihoods Project at Mantampala Refugee Settlement, (Caritas Mansa, Zambia) in response to the influx of refugees in 2017 and 2018. On 20 July 2018 Mansa Diocese responded to the Congolese refugee crisis in Nchelenge District of Luapula Province by officially launching a one-year project to ease the suffering of the Congolese refugees at Mantapala Refugee Settlement. This project was supported by funding from the Vatican. The “Revolving Refugee Farmers Input Support for Value Chain Development Project” ensures that refugees’ lives improve sustainably through improved agriculture production and productivity, improved resilience to economic shocks and disasters, and better marketing of agro-products and non-agro commodities. The project was implemented by Caritas Mansa, a development department of Mansa Diocese that has a long, vigorous history of working on livelihood projects with diverse communities.

In 2016 the Catholic Church played an important role in accommodating Rwandan refugees and other foreign nationals when they were targeted in connection to ritual killings.

One of the religious congregations working on migration-related issues is the Religious Sisters of Charity who are committed to abolishing human trafficking while providing services such as education, pastoral and social work, home visitation, and catechesis. Like the majority of congregations in Zambia, the Religious Sisters of Charity belongs to the Zambian Association of Sisterhoods (ZAS) founded in 1958. 

Other Organisations

Africa IDP Voice raises awareness and promotes effective protection of internally displaced persons. This is achieved by advocacy for legal, policy, and institutional frameworks for protection. The organisation has the same mandate to address refugee challenges. Another main actor is the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF), which provides legal advice free of charge to the public, including refugees and migrants. LRF identifies refugees and asylum seekers in prisons and engages with UNHCR on issues regarding legal assistance to refugees. The Foundation provides legal advice services and representation to refugees before courts in designated refugee camps around the country via seven Legal Advice Centres in Chipata, Kabwe, Kasama, Livingstone, Mansa, Mongu, and Solwezi.