Refugee gets 3 year suspended sentence for leaving camp

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A Congolese refugee has been sentenced to three years suspended sentence by the Lusaka Magistrate Court for leaving the Maheba refugee settlement camp in Solwezi without a pass.

Appearing before Magistrate Wendy Chibesakunda was Tambwe Patrick Lupapa aged 33 of Maheba refugee camp, who pleaded guilty to one count of leaving a refugee settlement contrary to section 31(4) as read with section 56 of the immigration and deportation Act No.18 of 2010 of the laws of Zambia.

Facts before the court were that the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) officers on January 30, 2014 conducted an operation in Garden compound in Lusaka following reports of people dealing in counterfeit notes and the accused was among the people who were picked up as suspects.

The accused was cleared of the suspicions after preliminary investigations into the matter but his identity and that of four others remained unclear.

The court heard that the following day DEC handed over the five suspected Congolese prohibited immigrants including the accused person to the Immigration department and investigations revealed that he was not a Zambian citizen.

The accused later told the immigration investigators that he was a Congolese national and that he was a recognized refugee in Zambia and was residing at Maheba refugee settlement in Solwezi.

The court further heard that the accused had left the settlement camp five months ago and that he had been issued with a gate pass which he failed to produce but only confirmed that the pass was only valid for one month.

And in mitigation, Tambwe said he was sorry for having been found without a pass and that he was looking after his family members including his uncle who lost his sight during the wars hence if sent to prison, the family would suffer.

And in passing sentence, Magistrate Chibesakunda said despite the fact that the accused was young and eager to explore, he should consider that he was a refugee hence should take care of himself and follow the laws of the country.

She said she considered the mitigation factors and that he readily pleaded guilty to the charge hence did not waste the court’s time adding that the accused person should make observations of his conduct during the period of his suspended sentence.