UN, CDEDI concerned for refugees

Refugee camp in Malawi picture by Getty images
  • Spot and identity to culminate into state sponsored xenophobia

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) have said they are against Malawi government move to relocate refugees and asylum seekers who are not in designated camps.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees country representative, Cyr Modetse Kouam over the weekend urged government to reconsider it's stand citing disastrous consequences for the lives of refugees.

The UNHR acknowledged under-funding is impacting service provision fro the refugees but explained it is working with partners to raise funds for settlement of refugees at Luwani in Neno which government offered as an alternative to Dzaleka camp.

Adding its voice, Centre for Democracy and Economic Development cautioned government over its planned spot and identify refugees and asylum seekers order saying it can culminate into state sponsored xenophobia.

CDEDI specifically Homeland Security Minister Jean Sendeza and Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police responsible for operations Casper Chalera, to desist from going ahead with the spot and identify instructions to police ahead of the November 30, 2022 and January 31, 2023 deadlines.

CDEDI Executive Director, Sylvester Namiwa said: "Such an order highly insensitive and ill-timed owing to the conduct of the bad apples that seem to have hijacked the police service. 

"This is a blank cheque to these bad apples to start looting and plundering innocent foreign nationals' property in the name of carrying out such an order on one hand, while some criminal elements outside the service may also take advantage of the same to victimize innocent people."

He said refugees and asylum seekers have basic human rights and ought to be treated with dignity.

CDEDI has since challenged government to suspend the whole exercise pending an all inclusive stakeholders meeting where all the contentious issues shall be discussed and ironed out and a human rights based approach shall be devised.

Social and political commentator, Wonderful Mkhutche voicing his opinion said: "If it was within my powers and abilities, I would have just incorporated the refugees at Dzaleka into the Malawian society."

Mkhutche suggested that's how he would have wanted to be treated as well if I was in their country under the same circumstances.

UNHCR data shows there are 8,000 refugees in urban and rural areas.

Malawi hosts 56,425 persons of concern (PoCs) the majority live in the Dzaleka refugee camp located in the Dowa district, some 41 kilometres away from the capital Lilongwe.  

Dzaleka has a monthly average of 300 new arrivals (62 percent are from the DRC, 19 percent Burundi and 7 percent Rwanda and 2 percent other nationalities).

45 percent of the PoCs are women, and 48 percent are children. The camp was initially established to host between 10,000 to 12,000 PoCs.