Inspector General of Police George Kainja and the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament have called for relocation of Dzaleka Refugee Camp from Dowa District to Karonga or Chitipa districts as one way of dealing with the influx of illegal immigrants.
The two sides concurrently said this would reduce costs incurred in sending immigrants back to their countries when they have been found at the camp or on their way to the place.
The call was made in Lilongwe Wednesday when the police boss led a team of police officials to a performance audit with committee members.
One of the areas of concern at the meeting was the continued flocking in of foreigners without proper documents.
Kainja said the camp must be close to the border so that immigrants that “do not meet the refugee status should be denied entry there and then” unlike sending them back when they are already in Malawi, which is expensive.
“Moving forward, I would like to agree with the suggestion that we need to abolish this camp [Dzaleka] because it is giving us more problems,” Kainja said.
Kainja told committee members that some Malawians, including traditional leaders, have been aiding illegal immigrants to get into the country due to the “kind-hearted nature” that Malawians are known for.
He also cited porous borders as another factor contributing to the continued influx of illegal immigrants in the country.
Kainja acknowledged, however, that the fact that illegal immigrants manage to beat the borders and travel on Malawian roads all the way to the heartland is a manifestation that there might be some police and immigration officers involved in corruption.
Kainja explained that others use the lake to enter the country, but the police have “slow boats” and the number of marine police officers is limited.
Pac Vice Chairperson Nedson Poya wondered why some people from countries where peace had been restored continued to enjoy refugee status in Malawi.
“Let us look at Rwanda, where there was genocide; we have Rwandese in this country, yet their country is peaceful. Why not go back?” he queried when talking to the press.
Poya also said the issue of refugees had to be tackled carefully because it had to do with national security.
Recently, Secretary for Defence Kennedy Nkhoma, who is also Commissioner for Refugees, told the Parliament’s Committee on Defence and Security that establishment of a refugee camp at Katiri in Karonga delayed due to land acquisition processes that were yet to be finalised.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.