UN Speaks Out As Malawi Court Blocks Move to Relocate Asylum Seekers

Lilongwe, April 27, Mana: United Nations Resident Coordinator for Malawi, Maria Jose Torres has appealed to government, media and other development partners to cautiously treat the relocation of asylum seekers with care.

She made these remarks at Bingu National Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe on Tuesday on the sidelines of the 2021 bi-annual Joint Meeting.

“As UN, we know very well that Malawi is a signatory of the Cooperation Refugee Framework. However, it is a framework that allows government to have an approach to the refugees and hosting communities.

“We are trying to see how best designed is the options with the government and that there are no negative impacts on the part of refugees, there are many human lives at stake right now, if we don’t look into all possible solutions.

“I appeal to all stakeholders that have a part to play, I appeal for a sober approach and for the media to refrain from using xenophobic statements because it’s dangerous and, may trigger tribal it may turn out to unrest and conflicts, where property and lives would be at danger,” Torres noted.  

Minister of Homeland Security, Richard Chimwendo Banda has several times assured stakeholders that government would follow all protocols to achieve a peaceful relocation and accord refugees’ maximum safety required.

Speaking for Refugees, Chief Executive Officer, for Innua Consulting, Innocent Magambi called on government to allocate an additional time for a thorough relocation process of the refugees.

Innua Consulting is a grouping of professionals’ composed of refugees and locals to provide advice to government on asylum seekers, is an offspring of ‘There is Hope’ an organization that advocates on the rights of refugees since 2006 in the country.

“While the government decision is in line with the current refugee encampment policy, restricting to mere two-week window period will cause more harm than good.

“In the interest of the nation as a whole, my recommendation is that the government would allocate a minimum of three months for viable implementation of its re-encampment decision,” Magambi appealed.

He added that “The development will affect other refugees in schools, learning or teaching, professionals like doctors’ nurses among many, and all those living outside Dzaleka with government permit on health conditions.” 

Government made its announcement of relocation ultimatum of refugees through a press statement on April 1, 2021, calling upon refugees residing in rural areas to relocate by given period.

“Notice is hereby given to all Asylum seekers and refugees residing outside the Dzaleka Refugee Camp to move out from your current residential area in the Rural Areas, where you are currently carrying out your business to Dzaleka Refugee Camp within 14 working days from the date of the communication,” the press release stated.

Ministry of Homeland Security Spokesperson, Andrew Nyondo down played the extension of relocation window period to three months calling it unjustifiable request.

“We are not ready to extend the period for any other reasons given before us. We would like to assure the nation that the Ministry in conjunction with relevant security and law agents will ensure that asylum seekers are safe, and all their belongings are safeguarded.

“May we in advance warn the citizenry not take the laws into their hands, should any refugee be found in the rural areas upon expiry of the stipulated window period, otherwise all in set for the relocation drive,” he said.

Meanwhile, the High Court in Lilongwe granted an injunction stopping president Lazarus Chakwera’s administration from relocating refugees and asylum seekers to Dzaleka camp in Dowa.