Human rights activists have condemned government’s move to relocate refugees and asylum seekers to Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa District, arguing the camp conditions are inconsistent with human rights standards.
Briefing journalists in Lilongwe on Thursday, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Michael Kaiyatsa said the relocation will only worsen the situation at the camp which is already overcrowded and lacking other facilities.
He said: “The move is inconsistent with human rights standards, as the camp is overcrowded and vital services such as health and education are overstretched. What this will do is worsen the situation at the camp.
“The move is inconsistent with human rights standards. As a country that is founded on human rights principles, we cannot take this route, we seem to be taking one step forward and two backwards.”
Kaiyatsa, who co-addressed the briefing with representatives of Inua Advocacy and Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), said countries such as Uganda and Ethiopia are moving towards non-encampment and advised Malawi to embrace the same.
MHRC is also opposed to the relocation due to congestion and the lack of basic facilities and resources in the camp.
The commission’s director of civil and political rights Peter Chisi said some of the refugees left the camp because of shortage of resources.
He said: “Funding to United Nations [UN] agencies is dwindling and some of the refugees have been removed from the list of beneficiaries. Some people moved out of the camps because they are trying to fend for themselves.
Inua Advocacy executive director Innocent Magambi reminded the government of its 2019 pledges to the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, which included the inclusion of refugees into the national development agenda; legal and policy reform, registration and documentation, settlement approach, and reception and admission, none of which were implemented.
Earlier this week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Malawi Cyr Modeste Kouame in a statement reiterated the agency’s calls for the authorities to reconsider the decision which he claimed would have disastrous consequences on many refugees’ lives.
He also observed that underfunding is already impacting current service provision to refugees and asylum seekers in the country, citing that as of March 28 2023, UNHCR had only received six percent of the $27.2 million (about K28 billion) required to adequately support refugees and asylum-seekers in Malawi this year.
On March 27, Minister of Homeland Security Ken Zikhale Ng’oma gave refugees and asylum seekers living in rural and urban areas two weeks’ notice to relocate by April 15 2023.