Ahead of relocating them to a refugee camp 40km north of Lilongwe, authorities In Malawi have raided the homes and business premises of refugees and asylum seekers operating in the country’s capital.
Immigration and police officers in Malawi rounded up more than 300 refugees and asylum seekers mostly from Burundi and Ethiopia and are currently holding them in jail while waiting for their relocation to the Dzaleka refugee camp.
Malawian laws prohibit refugees and asylum seekers from staying outside a refugee camp.
Homeland Security Minister Ken Zikhale Ng’oma has restated that, under no circumstances should refugees leave their designated camp. He says the camp “has facilities that meet international standards including primary and secondary schools, a health centre and a public market”.
Refugees in Malawi disagree with the government’s decision to forcibly relocate them to a refugee camp. The refugees say they prefer to live in the city, where there are better business opportunities and schools for their children.
In April last year, two refugees obtained a court order stopping the government from forcibly relocating them. The Malawi high court ordered a hearing between the government and the refugees to amicably agree on a way forward. However, no agreement was reached and the government continued to push for the relocation, leading to Wednesday’s action.
National police spokesperson Peter Kalaya said the exercise had gone well. However, the challenge that remains now is finding enough space for the refugees and asylum seekers at the already crowded camp. The country’s sole refugee camp has the capacity to hold just over 10,000 people, but there are currently over 8,000 refugees living in the city.
The government has said that the relocation is necessary to improve security and provide better services to the refugees. It is unclear what will happen next in this situation.
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