Police round up refugees


Police in Lilongwe Wednesday raided several places where they picked up over 100 refugees who have been defying government’s directive that they relocate to Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa.

Both national police spokesperson Peter Kalaya and Ministry of Homeland Security Public Relations Officer Patrick Botha confirmed the development in separate interviews.

Kalaya indicated that the operation has started in the administrative capital before it spreads across the country.


“We are targeting those who are staying or operating businesses illegally in various towns and cities outside Dzaleka Refugee Camp.

“We have taken in over 100 of them and we are in the process of moving them to the camp,” Kalaya said.

The police spokesperson was quick to state that the law enforcers are making sure they respect the human rights of the refugees during the operation.


On his part, Botha said the refugees were given ample time to voluntarily return to the camp, the officially designated home for such people.

He said the police are working with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services as well as the National Registration Bureau in the operation.

On March 27, Homeland Security Minister Ken Zikhale Ng’oma issued a directive for the refugees to relocate to Dzaleka from April 1 to 15.

Our assessments, however, showed that many of them had ignored the directive and have continued operating their businesses in towns and cities “normally”.

Recently, the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, expressed concern over the decision by the government to proceed with the exercise to relocate refugees living in rural and urban areas.

UNHCR Country Coordinator Cyr Modeste Kouame said the UN agency appreciated the leniency exercised by the government regarding the previous relocation deadlines and asked Lilongwe to reconsider its decision.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education has charged that in terms of school infrastructure problems, the refugees will not receive any preferential treatment.

Secretary for Education Chikondano Mussa said school-going refugees will have lessons under trees and overlapping and double shifts just like is the case in several public schools.

Mussa was speaking Wednesday during the handover ceremony of a European Union (EU)-funded school at Dzaleka Refugee Camp.

“We have large enrolments in all schools. What we do out there is to insist on double shifting to make use of the classrooms available, overlapping to make use of the teachers available and for secondary education, we go the digital way: open and distance learning,” Mussa said.

She added that government is talking with partners to help with school infrastructure and that the EU is expected to expand 40 secondary schools across the country.

“We came to receive an infrastructure built with support from the EU and we can assure you that the government is committed to expanding access to primary and secondary education,” Mussa said.

EU Ambassador to Malawi Rune Skinnebach said the current teacher-learner ratio at the camp is at 1:86, with some classes going over 100 “which is worrisome”.

“We have to consider the entire country; we are supporting the education systems and structures throughout the country including Dzaleka, but we cannot just have better structures at Dzaleka than we have in the rest of the country,” Skinnebach said.

Taking his turn, Kouame said UNHRC has already made its stand clear to the government regarding high school enrolment due to the relocation of the refugees.

On the other hand, Kouame thanked EU for constructing additional classrooms and water, sanitation and hygiene facilities that will enable 9,364 learners living in and around the camp to access quality education.

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