Government pleads with refugees to relocate

Oliver Kumbambe

When, last year, the government announced that refugees in rural settings had up to November 30 2022 to relocate to their official home, Dzaleka Refugee Camp, with those in urban settings given a February 1 2023 deadline, many thought government officials meant what they were saying. However, as MATHEWS KASANDA writes, the task has not been easy to carry out, with only 40- plus families returning to camp.

The government has asked refugees that left Dzaleka Refugee Camp to voluntarily go back to the camp, further indicating that those that want to go back to their countries can do so.

Ironically, on November 24 2022, Homeland Security Minister Jean Sendeza stressed that the government would embark on “full enforcement” of relocating them after the lapse of the given deadlines.


The government gave refugees in rural settings up to November 30 2022 and those in urban areas a February 1 2023 deadline, but it has not effected its own directive.

On November 25 2022, Deputy Inspector General of Police responsible for Operations Casper Chalera instructed law enforcers to start spotting refugees who are staying outside the camp.

But speaking after he appeared before the Trade, Industry and Tourism Committee of Parliament in Lilongwe yesterday, Secretary for Homeland Security Oliver Kumbambe told reporters that the February 1 deadline has not elapsed.


Asked about what the ministry did to refugees after the November 30 deadline expired, he insisted on the February 1 deadline.

“Time hasn’t elapsed yet and, as such, I can’t answer that one. It is only after the deadlines are done [that I can answer that question] but, for now, what we are encouraging is that people [refugees and asylum seekers] should voluntarily go back to camp,” he said.

According to him, some of them have already started going back to the camp, reclaiming houses they abandoned within the camp.

A verification exercise conducted in December 2022 indicated that there were 49, 606 people, and not 56,000 as was believed, at the camp.

Kumbambe indicated that a refugee cannot have that status permanently because there comes a time for them to go back where they came from if normalcy returns and that about 305 of them have signed for voluntary repatriation.

“We are encouraging refugees whose countries have also attained peace, or the situations they fled from are no longer existing, to go back home.

Chairperson for the Trade, Industry and Tourism Committee Simplex Chithyola Banda said the committee understands that there were two deadlines, adding that it also learnt that over 40 families have gone back to the camp.

“It is a good sign for us. We have seen the commitment and seriousness from the Homeland Security [Ministry] to ensure that they do the needful before the actual date,” he said.

Banda further said there are many processes that need to be considered including fundamental principles, freedoms and human rights of the refugees to avoid contravening provisions of the International Convention on Management of Refugees of 1951.

He explained that the matter also needed to be well addressed so as not to contravene human rights protocols.

It is reported that about 8,000 asylum seekers and refugees supposed to be at Dzaleka Refugee Camp are in communities within Malawi, doing different businesses.

On Tuesday this week, close to 40 small-scale business owners told the same committee that they felt the government had failed to relocate the foreigners and that, as such, Parliament was their last resort.

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