The United Nations (UN) has called on the government and Malawians at large to soberly handle the relocation of refugees from communities to Dzaleka Refugee Camp.
UN resident coordinator Maria Jose Torres said in an interview on the sidelines of the Government/UN Joint Strategy Meeting in Lilongwe yesterday that the UN has been working with Malawi for years on the issue of refugees.
She said Malawi is a signatory of the Cooperation Refugees Framework which allows the country to have a coordinated approach to refugees and the hosting communities.
Said Torres: “There are many human lives at stake right now if we don’t look at all possible solutions. We all have a role to play in the situation. So, we really appeal for a sober approach.
“I am appealing to the media to avoid xenophobic statements, it is dangerous, and when we start taking such an approach towards the situation, it may lead to unrest or conflict.
She said further the UN is trying to see how best to design different options with the government of Malawi so that there is no impact on the host community and that there is no negative impact on the situation of refugees.
Early this month, the Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo Banda issued a statement asking all refugees to relocate to Dzaleka Refugee Camp by April 28 (today), failing which the ministry will be compelled to use necessary force.
In light of the situation, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and human rights lawyer Chrispine Sibande warned government against violating refugees’ rights in the process.
But Ministry of Homeland Security spokesperson Andrew Nyondo told The Nation on Monday that government will not deprive the refugees of their economic rights, adding that is why they have been freely doing businesses in the country.
The country has 48 824 refugees and asylum seekers and over 2 000 of them are illegally residing in rural and semi-urban areas.