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Refugees escape from Dzaleka is an open defiance– Malawi Police

Some of the victimised refugees
Some of the refugees in police vehicle

By Edwin Mauluka

Malawi Police Service (MPS) has called upon refugees residing in the country to respect the law by staying at Dzaleka Refugee Camp as escaping from the camp is tantamount to an open defiance to the legitimate authority.

In a statement issued today dated, 4th June, 2023, signed by Service Public Relations Officer, Senior Superintendent Peter Kalaya, has noted with concern of the escape of some refugees who were successfully relocated to the camp and are returning into cities and towns.

“MPS reminds the refugees that this country is built on a solid foundation of ‘respect of rule of law’ and that Malawians expect those who come to seek refuge here to abide by our laws as they are.”

“The operation of relocating refugees is still on across the country and police officers will use necessary force that will make the refugees return to the camp and never come back.” Warned Kalaya

In the statement Kalaya has further cautioned Malawians that it is a crime to interfere with security agencies by harbouring the returning refugees and that anyone who will be found will be arrested and prosecuted.

“Malawians should see the refugees’ act of returning into cities and towns as clear disregard of the country’s laws and open defiance to legitimate authority, a thing that should never be entertained.”

Some of the rounded-up refugees

Since May 17, Malawi government has rounded up over 1000 refugees and asylum seekers residing in towns and cities to move back to the camp located in Dowa district.

The exercise followed the expiry of government ultimatum that called for all refugees to voluntarily return to the camp by April 15, or face enforced relocation.

Dzaleka is a highly congested camp housing more than 50,000 against designated 10,000 refugees.

There are now reports of dehumanizing conditions at the camp due to lack of food, clean water and shelter as others sleep in the open without blankets.

Majority of returnees who have been operating viable businesses in different places of the country left behind their possessions during the roundup and are not allowed to return to collect their assets.

The government decision is being carried out despite heavy criticism from human rights groups, donor community, including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Last week, a local human rights advocacy organization, Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI), held a press briefing where it urged government to halt the exercise.

CDEDI, Executive Director, Sylvester Namiwa argued that the whole exercise violates human rights principles, international protocols and was inconsistent of government commitment to the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).

“Malawi Government pledged at the Global Refugee Forum in December 2019 to incorporate refugee matters into its national development agenda, reform the legal and policy framework, cover registration and documentation of refugees, enhance refugee status determination and support the self-reliance of refugees through increased livelihood activities.” Noted Namiwa

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