The Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Grace Chiumia, has disclosed that the process of relocating refugees from Dzaleka in Dowa to Kapiri in Karonga will start after Parliament passes the 2017/18 National Budget.
The government committed to making available funds for the process and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has been saying it is still eagerly waiting for when the commitment would be fulfilled.
On the other hand, there has been some resistance from the Karonga-Chitipa Heritage Group which argues that, among others, having the camp in the border district would pose a security threat.
In an interview yesterday in Lilongwe, at the opening of a discussion on Policy Platform on Alternatives to Immigration Detention in Malawi, Chiumia said progress is being made on the Kapiri Refugee Camp project.
“We have done the consultations with various stakeholders including traditional leaders and I can confidently state that we are making good progress. Refugees need to be given an opportunity to interact with the local communities because both parties can benefit from each other.
“The UNHCR is waiting for the government to release money for the project because we pledged that we would do so. Last year, we allocated K100 million for the construction of a road and I am happy that this budget has seen an increase to K200 million. Soon after we pass the budget, we will ask the Minister of Finance to release the money,” Chiumia said.
Executive Director of the South Africa Litigation Centre, Kaajal Ramjathan- Keogh, said Malawi needs to work on alternative ways of dealing with immigrants, particularly children in detention from Ethiopia and other countries.
“These immigrants are arrested for being undocumented in Malawi. They are placed in detention without any avenue for their release, reintegration in the local communities or return to their countries because this return is very expensive,” Ramjathan-Keogh said.
On his part, Director of the International Detention Coalition, Grant Mitchell, said detention damages people that are there for a very long period.
He observed that in different countries, they have models of managing detainees which are relevant to Malawi.
“Already, Malawi has some good practice that we have been noticing. They have transit permits and provide for the voluntary return of the immigrants. So we are here to encourage that such practices should be developed further,” Mitchell said.
Other stakeholders at the meeting included the Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance and the International Organisation for Migration.
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