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Mozambican refugees still pour in

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Hundreds of Mozambican refugees continue to trek into Malawi’s border districts of Mwanza and Chikwawa following worsening political situation in Tete Province.

Both government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have confirmed the development.

The Mozambicans started seeking asylum in Malawi in July last year after Renamo fighters carried out attacks in Tete Province.

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The conflict between government soldiers and opposition Renamo forces followed a disputed election early last year.

Mwanza District Commissioner (DC), Gift Rapozo, said the deployment of Mozambique government forces in Tete seems to be instilling panic, resulting into more Mozambicans seeking refuge in Malawi.

The development is taking place after government in collaboration with UNHCR closed Luwani Refugee Camp in Chikwawa and partially repatriated some refugees while some were sent to Kapisi Camp in Mwanza in November 2015.

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“Right now we are not yet through with registration but the figures have reached over 2,000 as of Friday and more people are still coming in,” said Rapozo on Saturday.

He said many of the refugees, among whom are children, are enduring difficult weather conditions due to lack of shelter.

“Food, water, sanitation and social support remain our urgent matters.

It’s difficult for us to cope with the situation but we are trying,” Rapozo said.

He said a number of UN agencies are on the ground assessing the situation which he described as terrible.

Rapozo said the people say they are being advised by Mozambican authorities in Tete to move for their own safety as “anything could happen”.

Secretary for Home Affairs and Internal Security Bestone Chisamile who visited the Mwanza camp on Thursday said his team was compiling a needs assessment report.

UNHCR Countr y Representative to Malawi Monique Ekoko said the numbers of refugees are rising very fast and the camp cannot accommodate all the refugees because of the limitation of space and lack of sanitation facilities.

“Some provisions have been made to these newly arrived asylum-seekers including farming tools, blankets, buckets, mats, tents, kitchen sets and food provided by WFP [World Food Programme] but they are not enough because the figures are drastically increasing,” said Ekoko on Sunday, adding that similar provision has been made to 307 refugees in Chikwawa.

She said the visit by Secretary for Home Affairs to the area brings hope in the sense that government may deploy a security team to the camps to beef up security and ensure safety of the people.

But Ekoko said the UN in general is following the events as they unfold.

“What is out there according to what they are saying is that they fear persecution, some of them have been attacked, and their houses burnt down while some have been sleeping in caves fearing gun shots.

So we need to provide them with much needed assistance because they will not be going back home now,” Ekoko said.

She said the government Malawi was responsible for taking care of the refugees as a hosting country.

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