Less than a week after announcing the decision to re-open Luwani Refugee camp in Neno, government has suspended the move pending talks with the Mozambican government.
On Friday last week the Malawi government announced its decision to re-open the camp to cope with the rising numbers of people fleeing war in neighbouring Mozambique.
But sources privy to the discussion between the two governments said the suspension is a result of strong protest from the Mozambican government.
Mozambique insists that there is no unrest in that country, arguing that those people fleeing into Malawi are not refugees and they ought to go back to their respective homes in Mozambique immediately.
Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Jean Kalilani, confirmed the suspension in an interview on Thursday.
“We have suspended the move pending the outcome from the discussions with the government of Mozambique,” Kalilani said.
Ironically, On Tuesday this week, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) welcomed the government’s decision to re-open the camp.
In an interview yesterday, UNHCR Representative in Malawi, Monique Ekoko, said at the time of the interview the government had not yet written the UN offices on the suspension and they would release a statement after receiving such communication.
“We need to get official notification from the government of Malawi to that effect before we can make a statement,” Ekoko said.
In an earlier interview, Secretary for Home Affairs and Internal Security, Bestone Chisamile, said the Malawi government hoped to have first group of refugees moving to Luwani next week.
The first Mozambicans arrived in Kapise Villages in the area of Traditional Authority Nthache in Mwanza in June last year but the flow of migrants has rapidly increased in the past three months.
While Kapise, just a settlement centre, is just five kilometres from the border, Luwani is some 65 kilometres inside Malawi.
According to international law and UNHCR guidelines, camps should be located atleast 40 kilometres away from the border.
The Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa states that, “For reasons of security, countries of asylum shall, as far as possible, settle refugees at a reasonable distance from the frontier of their country of origin.’
It is reported Renamo wants to take control of six northern provinces of Manica, Sofala, Tete, Zambezia, Nampula and Niassa.
Luwani camp previously hosted Mozambican refugees during the 1977-1992 civil war and was finally closed in 2007
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