Govt sets Nov 30 deadline for refugees' return to camp

Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa

In six days’ time a full enforcement of refugee and asylum seekers' relocation to designated camps where they are protected by international law will commence.

Section 9 of the Refugee Act, 1989 stipulates that “Any person granted the refugee status under the act shall be subject to the laws of Malawi, jurisdiction of the courts in Malawi and to all measures taken for the maintenance of public order".

Initially, Government announced that all refugees who came to Malawi and were given refugee or asylum seeker status residing in undesignated places without proper documentation should to go back to Dzaleka on 1st April 2021

The refugee community however, obtained an injunction for judicial review on the decision.

Following a High Court ruling on August 12, 2022, which upheld the government’s position, a new deadline for the relocation exercise is now set for 30th November 2022 for refugees residing in rural areas and 1st February 2023 for those living in urban areas.

Speaking during Government faces the press edition in Lilongwe Homeland Security minister Jean Sendeza, said a task team comprising of different stakeholders was set up to drive the process.

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Sendeza: It’s about K300 million that is needed for us to do the exercise

She noted that some refugees are going back to the camp before the stipulated deadlines; a development she described as commendable with some applying for voluntary return back to their countries.

The Minister acknowledged that Dzaleka is very congested and tents are still being erected for accommodation with a budget put in place to cater for the exercise.

“It’s about K300 million that is needed for us to do the exercise and with the Luwani camp, that one was quoted in dollars because UNHCR are the ones that are rehabilitating Luwani and its about $58 million that is the amount that they gave me. This is due to the road infrastructure that they would want to construct because the bridge that connects Luwani and the road in Mwanza got collapsed so that’s why the amount it’s so huge.

”I’m told by the Minister of Finance because we have been engaging on the same and he assured me that these funds will be made available,” she disclosed

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Some of the journalists captured at the presser

Sendeza is upbeat the exercise will be taken seriously by the concerned parties especially the refugees and that they will voluntarily return to Dzaleka Camp and not wait for the 30th November deadline.

She appealed for patience from all stakeholders in this ongoing process.

“I appeal to the general public to refrain from getting involved in issues of refugees especially on the exercise. Let those that are assigned to do the work do so without any form of interference. I hope that the warmness that we have been showing since we started hosting refugees will continue to ensure a smooth relocation of refugees and asylum seekers.

“Let me also warn those that want to take advantage of the exercise for their own personal interests and criminal activities. The long arm of the law will catch up with you and no mercy will be shown until you have fully paid for you deeds” she cautioned.

Since the 1970’s, Malawi has been hosting refugees and asylum seekers from Mozambique, Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo, among other countries.