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Court rebuffs refugees on relocation, okays judicial review

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High Court Judge William Msiska has refused to grant refugees and asylum seekers a stay order, stopping the government from relocating them to Dzaleka, their official home in Malawi.

However, the court has granted the refugees and asylum seekers their request for judicial review on the issue.

This happened after refugees and asylum seekers who stay in town, where they have permanent houses, asked the court to look at the issue by way of judicial review.

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One of the lawyers representing the refugees, Eric Salima, confirmed to The Daily Times that the court has given them the go-ahead to proceed with judicial review proceedings.

“We went to court [on Monday] to apply for permission to commence judicial review proceedings based on government’s decision to relocate the refugees and asylum seekers living in town, some of whom have permanent homes and have been integrated into the society,” Salima said.

He also confirmed that the court has refused to give them a stay order to stop the government from relocating refugees and asylum seekers to Dzaleka.

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Last week, Homeland Security Minister Jean Sendeza said over 8,000 refugees who stay in communities outside Dzaleka pose a danger to national security.

She told a press conference in Lilongwe that government’s Encampment Policy prohibits refugees from operating businesses outside a refugee camp.

Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Malawi, Rumbani Msiska, told the media then that the move to relocate the refugees was a concern.

He said that while government might have legal justification for the relocation, returning the refugees to the camp would create serious problems at the country’s only refugee camp, such as school overcrowding and a scramble for water and even health facilities.

Recently, Deputy Inspector General of Police responsible for Operations Casper Chalera instructed law enforcers to start identifying refugees living outside Dzaleka Refugee Camp in preparation for their relocation after November 30 this year.

According to a police internal memo, dated November 25 2022, the decision follows a government directive that refugees relocate to Dzaleka by November 30.

The government set November 30 and February 1 as deadlines for refugees and asylum seekers residing in rural and urban areas, respectively, to go back to the camp.

“You are directed to start spotting or identifying refugees living within your jurisdiction with immediate effect… Include exact place, number of individuals per household and type of business [that the refugees are operating,” reads the communication addressed to all units, stations and posts in the country.

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