Minister warns loitering refugees

Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi has warned refugees against loitering outside their designated camps without permit, saying government will take unspecified action on those caught.

The minister was speaking yesterday after touring Katudza Project site, an expansion of Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa whose population is 43 000.

Said Dausi: “We have this project funded by the Japanese Government through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR] and another project is in progress at Katiri in Karonga where we plan to move Dzaleka camp to. All these efforts are a move to ensure that there is enough space for the refugees because we want them all in camps.”

Dausi (in blue cap) pointing while interacting with Ekoko

There has been conflict of interest between government, UNHCR and other sectors on the move to transfer Dzaleka Camp to Karonga near the northern border which most refugees use when entering Malawi.

UNHCR raised concerns that Katiri site does not have enough water and that the land around the area in infertile for agricultural activities which most people in the camps rely on for their livelihood.

UNHCR representative Monique Ekoko said efforts to decongest the refugee camps seem to be heading in the right direction, hence there is need to also provide means of livelihood to the refugees who rely heavily on food assistance.

She said: “91.6 percent of population at Dzaleka Refugee Camp is heavily dependent on food assistance but with the current figures in the camps, the assistance may not be adequate; hence, these people need a means of sustaining themselves.”

Dzaleka sits on 201 hectares of land, out of which 108 hectares is occupied by residential shelters with a smaller proportion occupied by public facilities while extension works cover 37 hectares.

The Japanese Government has provided $410 000 (about K304 million) for the expansion of Dzaleka Camp and the project will include establishment of a road network, installation of a water system and provision of housing kits to refugees.

Japanese Ambassador Kae Yanagisawa said her government is committed to work with Malawi and other partners to improve refugees welfare.

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