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Mass registration phase sidelines prisoners

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The ongoing National Identification Mass Registration Phase, which ends in November, has sidelined prisoners, a development that has irked some human rights defenders.

But National Registration Bureau (NRB) says the exercise is ongoing and special arrangements will be made to register the prisoners.

Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (Chreaa) has said the National ID exercise is for all Malawians regardless of status.

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NRB spokesperson, Norman Fulatira, said prisons are dynamic institutions, hence could not be incorporated in the mass registration exercise.

He also said because the exercise is ongoing, the prisoners will register once they finish their sentences.

Fulatira said district councils will make special arrangements to have the prisoners registered.

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“You know prisons are dynamic institutions, people are coming in and going out. In the mass registration phase, there is no special arrangement for prisoners. But they will not be left out because registration is a continuous process, once we are done with the mass registration, we can always target them.

“What you need to know is that in the district councils, there are registration officers and machines being used now will be placed in the councils and post offices. So the districts can make arrangements to go to the prisons and register the prisoners,” he said.

However, Chreaa Executive Director Victor Mhango refused to accept the arrangement, saying the bureau had already sidelined prisoners.

He suggested that prisoners who are serving long sentences should register now.

“This is not a welcome development. I am sure the National Registration Bureau had no plans for prisoners. Some prisoners are serving long sentences, so it was ideal to register them now. The national IDs are meant for every Malawian without taking into account their status,” he said.

About nine million eligible Malawians are expected to register in the mass registration phase.

The exercise has been facing challenges such as shortage of registration forms since it began this year.

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