The relocation of refugees and asylum seekers from Dzaleka Refugee Camp in the Central Region district of Dowa to a new camp at Katiri in Karonga District has been delayed due to delays to finalise land acquisition processes.
The Department of Refugees in the Ministry of Homeland Security has since told Parliament that it is hopeful that processes would be completed in the next three months.
In 2018, there was resistance from community members, including traditional leaders in Karonga, when the government announced plans to relocate the refugees and asylum seekers to the Northern Region district.
Secretary for Defence Kennedy Nkhoma, who is also Commissioner of Refugees, said the ministry had not given up on the relocation exercise.
Nkhoma led ministry officials who appeared before members of Parliament’s Committee on Defence and Security in Lilongwe Tuesday.
The committee wanted to appreciate progress made on plans to relocate refugees and asylum seekers to Katiri in Karonga.
Dzaleka Refugee Camp has exceeded its capacity by over 41,000 refugees and asylum seekers.
The department’s officials said congestion poses a health and security risks.
Committee chairperson Ralph Jooma said they expected responsible officials to expedite the matter.
“What has transpired in their presentation is that the biggest obstacle has, so far, been the finalisation of the formal acquisition of land,” he said.
The committee admitted that overcrowding at Dzaleka posed health hazards to residents.
The camp was initially developed to accommodate 10,000 people but currently hosts 51,500 refugees and asylum seekers.
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.