Speakers of African Parliaments dared to advance refugees' agenda in National Parliaments.

The tenth Conference of Speakers of African Parliaments has acknowledged the refugee crisis facing the continent and reiterated commitment of national Parliaments in stemming the crisis.
The African Union has declared 2019 as the “Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacements.”

Speaking at the Conference, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees Regional Representative for Southern Africa, George KUCHIO called upon African governments to have a  change of perception towards refugees. "Refugees are not persons just moving about aimlessly. A refugee is a person who leaves their country because they have been persecuted. Refugees cannot do anything meaningful whilst resident in a refugee camp. This is why Africa has to make deliberate policies to protect such people and where possible, integrate them into communities," said Kuchio.

The Speaker of Parliament from Zimbabwe Hon. Jacob MUDENDA commended the AU for declaring 2019 as the year of refugees saying "Africa and the world at large must go beyond recognition of refugee status. There is need for tangible and timeous solutions to dehumanizing situation that faces refugees," said Hon Mudenda.

The Speaker from Somalia Hon. Mohammed Mursal ABDIRAHMAN chronicled the two decades-long conflict that has forced Somalis to leave the country. "Since 1991, hundreds of thousands of Somalis have reportedly left their country and constitute a large number of refugees on the continent," said Hon Abdirahaman.

Kuchio emphasised that "It is important for us to have burden sharing when dealing with the refugee crisis. Other countries accept refugees while others decline. We need to convince countries to accept refugees as their own and find solutions if these people cannot go back home. We need to have pathways open for refugees to access for instance, work permits and identity documents. Assistance does not always mean monetary aid but if refugees have skills, giving them work permits is the way to go."

The President of the Pan African Parliament Hon. Roger Nkodo DANG said the high-level deliberations by the Speakers of African Parliaments indicates the importance of the subject of refugees. "The discussions show without doubt the importance of this matter. Hence PAP has devoted an entire session to debate on the issue of refugees," said Hon Nkodo Dang.

The house was however cognizant of the great cost of hosting refugees. There is pressure on water resources, the environment, schools and health facilities. The Speakers collectively recommended increased efforts to address root causes of migration, especially ending political conflicts, eradicating poverty and creating jobs for young people.