Institutions investigating alleged rights abuses in the relocation of refugees to Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa have alleged that some police officers are taking advantage of the exercise to steal from the foreign nationals.
Revelations from the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and Inua Advocacy, documenting alleged abuses, show that some law enforcers have allegedly stolen from individuals amounts ranging from K100 000 to over K11.8 million.
But both police and Ministry of Homeland Security said yesterday the confiscated merchandise containers were safe at National Police Headquarters in Area 30 and Lilongwe officers are patrolling locations. They said no incident of shops or houses broken have been reported to date.
However, in an interview yesterday, MHRC director of civil and political rights Peter Chisi said they continue to document many alleged rights abuses, including allegations that law enforcers are stealing from refugees.
He said: “Among the victims we found at Maula [Prison] was a pregnant woman, another, a man who has been in Malawi for over 15 years and is married here. Both victims hold the Malawi national identity [ID] card and passport, meaning that they are Malawian citizens.
“The allegations are that police stole money from them in various amounts. There is a K3 million allegation where police went to the man’s house, took his money and left. The man went to Area 25 Police Unit to report the matter but he was detained and held at Maula Prison.”
Chisi said another refugee, who resides at Dzaleka, but went to Mchesi Township in Lilongwe to buy baking flour, had his K100 000 taken by officers.
Refugees advocate Innocent Magambi said his office is recording many allegations of theft by police officers or individuals, including cases where shops owned by refugees or asylum seekers are being vandalised at night.
He said: “My office is working with Kanengo Police [in Lilongwe], on a case where law enforcers who had gone to Ngwangwa Village near Airwing and took K11.8 million from a person. He has just received the money from a company after selling farm produce.
“They beat him and his wife. At Chinsapo [in Lilongwe], they thought someone was hiding in the shop and broke glasses and threw tear gas in it! Imagine if there were people inside it.”
According to Magambi, each refugee at Dzaleka gets K10 400 per month, but not everyone receives it and last year, due to erratic funding, over 600 households were removed from the list of beneficiaries.
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation executive director Michael Kaiyatsa wondered why law enforcers were confiscating property, arguing, there was no court order issued for such action or plan.
However, National Police spokesperson Peter Kalaya said they had properly planned for the operation to ensure safety of the merchandise and household goods.
“We have containers at Area 30, they are safe, and for locations, our officers are constantly doing patrols to provide security on what is left in locations. At an appropriate time, these people will claim their properties,” he said.
On the other hand, Ministry of Homeland Security spokesperson Patrick Botha said they will be engaging chiefs, business operators, block leaders and market leaders so that they do not take advantage of the situation to loot refugee-run shops.
Dzaleka camp presently accommodates 56 425 refugees but was established to accommodate up to 12 000 refugees.