Skip to main content

The Nation on Sunday

23 June, 2024

By Llyod Chitsulo

Civil Society Coalition on Migration has appealed to government to prioritise refugees’ rights, dignity and humanity.

The sentiments were made in a statement on Thursday, June 20 as the country joined the rest of the world in observing World Refuge Day.

The CSOs chairperson Victor Mhango said it is important to protect refugees in alignment with both international law and Malawi’s Constitution.

Said Mhango: “Over the past year, refugees faced a litany of abuses; losing property and valuables during government-sanctioned relocations. Government agencies are yet to account for lost and confiscated property.”

On March 27 last year, government issued a relocation order for refugees to return to Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa District over security threats and taking advantage of economic activities at the expense of Malawians.

It used security agents to relocate the refugees

In Lilonhgwe’s Area 25 and Mgona, refugees had their containers confiscated.

Mhango expressed worry that the forced opening of the containers and subsequent selling of the confiscated goods has been shrouded in secrecy.

He lamented unsanitary conditions and overcrowding that the refugees were subjected to at the camp and further described as heart-wrenching, the separation of families and the stripping off of the refugees’ livelihoods due to the forced encampment policy.

In addition, he said, CSOs documented alarming cases of human rights abuses during the relocation exercise.

“On May 17 and 18 2023, 505 individuals, including 202 males, 89 females and 117 children, were detained under appalling conditions at Maula Prison.

“These refugees endured overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, physical abuse, denied legal representation and basic necessities,” he said.

He, therefore, said the establishment of a Special Law Commission to review the Refugees Act represents significant strides in rectifying such systemic issues within the refugee sector in Malawi.

Ministry of Homeland Security Principal Secretary Steven Kayuni was not available for comment.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Malawi hosts over 70 000 refugees and asylum seekers with a majority residing at Dzaleka Refugee Camp.

Initially, the camp was designed to accommodate 12 000 refugees, but it has over 56 000 refugees, as such worsening the living conditions