Lack of a decisive law to deal with asylum seekers and refugees who leave their camps and settle elsewhere is compromising the country’s security, security institutions in the country have warned.
In an interview on Thursday, Immigration Department spokesperson James Chauwa said this has resulted in a free flow of asylum seekers in the country which is a security challenge to law enforcement agencies.
Said Chauwa: “It is a vicious cycle. We round them [immigrants] up and send them to camps, and some to their respective countries. But some still find their way back into the country or leave the camps again. This is causing security concerns. We are dealing with people whose backgrounds we do not know very well.”
He said most of the people are from countries involved in armed conflicts; therefore, their backgrounds are questionable including their intentions of seeking asylum in Malawi.
Chauwa said the country lacks a clear cut legislation that can explicitly deal with the question of illegal immigrants.
Malawi Police Service (MPS) spokesperson James Kadadzera said the country risks entertaining criminals masquerading as refugees and asylum seekers.
“Some of these refugees and asylum seekers can be criminals who can bring in light arms and drugs and therefore need to be screened. This issue requires various stakeholders to work together. As police we make sure that we sensitise the general public through community policing structures against abetting illegal entry of immigrants,” he said.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) country office said as of February 13 2017, Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa, the biggest holding facility in the country, had a total of 27 443 asylum seekers and refugees mainly from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda in the Great Lakes and horn of Africa’s.
Other camps are a transit shelter in Karonga run by UNHCR and two camps in Mwanza and Nsanje specifically designed to host Mozambican refugees.
UNHCR reporting and public information associate Dorothy Kachitsa confirmed that some refugees disappear from the camp due to security lapses.
Two weeks ago two Congolese refugees sneaked out of Dzaleka and flew out of the country using stolen passports. But they were apprehended in Addis Ababa and sent back to Malawi.
Minister of Home Affairs Grace Chiumia said Malawians had a duty to protect the country against infiltration of illegal immigrants.
Malawi signed the convention relating to the status of refugees and its underpinning protocol in December 1987 at a time the country hosted over a million refugees who fled civil war in Mozambique.