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Malawi CSOs commemorate one year of Brutal Refugee Relocation Exercise

Malawi is marking a somber anniversary – one year since the government enforced a brutal refugee relocation exercise that has inflicted profound suffering on vulnerable communities.

“The suffering endured by these individuals is a stark reminder of our collective responsibility to protect the most vulnerable among us,” said Charles Kajoloweka, Executive Director of Youth and Society (YAS), in a statement.

On May 17, 2023, the lives of countless refugees and asylum seekers were upended as they were forcibly moved to Dzaleka Camp, which currently holds about 53,000 refugees despite its initial capacity of 12,000 when established in 1994.

The relocation followed a directive issued by the government on March 27, 2023, to enforce its retrogressive encampment policy.

Human rights violations have been reported, including rape, arbitrary detention, and destruction of property.

“The failure to prosecute offenders further compounds the injustice and the lack of transparency and accountability denies victims the opportunity for restitution and justice,” said Kajoloweka.

The forced relocations have exacerbated an already dire humanitarian crisis at Dzaleka Refugee Camp, threatening the health and dignity of refugees.

“We specially recall the voice of Valentin Tapsoba, Director of UNHCR, who emphasized the need to protect refugees in a dignified manner,” said Kajoloweka.

In light of these grave concerns, civil society organizations are calling for immediate and decisive action by government and stakeholders to address the ongoing plight of refugees in Malawi.

They are demanding independent investigations into the human rights violations, humanitarian support for refugees, legislative reform to align with international standards, a halt to forced extraditions, a report on confiscated goods and properties, and public awareness campaigns to foster empathy and understanding among the local population.

The statement has been endorsed by several organizations, including Youth and Society (YAS), Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI), Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI), Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), Citizen Alliance (NAP), The Ukhondo Services Foundation (USEF), and Church and Society Livingstone.

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