By Deogratias Mmana:
Deputy Inspector General of Police responsible for operations Casper Chalera has instructed law enforcers to start identifying refugees living outside Dzaleka Refugee Camp in preparation for their relocation after November 30 this year.
According to a police internal memo, dated November 25 2022, the decision follows a government directive that refugees relocate to Dzaleka by November 30.
The government set November 30 2022 and February 1 2023 as deadlines for refugees and asylum seekers residing in rural and urban areas, respectively, to go back to the camp.
“You are directed to start spotting or identifying refugees living within your jurisdiction with immediate effect… Include exact place, number of individuals per household and type of business [that the refugees are operating,” reads the communication addressed to all units, stations and posts in the country.
On November 24 this year, Homeland Security Minister Jean Sendeza announced that responsible law enforcement agencies would start relocating refugees and asylum seekers to Dzaleka Refugee Camp after November 30.
She warned people against intervening in the relocation exercise, stressing that anyone taking the law in their hands would be prosecuted.
Sendeza said the Treasury would provide K300 million for the exercise to ensure the safe return of the affected people to Dzaleka.
According to the ministry, there are about 8,000 refugees and asylum seekers spread across the country.
According to Sendeza, some have started going back to the camp while others have started applying for a safe return to their countries.
Section 9 of the Refugees Act, 1989, stipulates that any person granted refugee status under the Act shall be subject to the laws of Malawi, jurisdiction of the courts in Malawi and to all measures taken for the maintenance of public order.
Malawi is hosting over 50,000 refugees from countries such as Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In June 2021, a Democratic Republic Congo-based Rwandan law firm, namely Judicial Studies Office, wrote President Lazarus Chakwera, asking him to protect Rwandan refugees living in the country.
In a letter, reference number 119/JUCAP/ GAR/2021 and dated June 4 2021, the firm asked Chakwera to protect Rwandan refugees as well as their assets and find a durable solution until the situation in their country of origin, Rwanda, changes in order to allow their voluntary repatriation or they will be naturalised Malawians.
The firm’s lead lawyer Abubakar Ramazani Guy confirmed writing the letter.
Among other things, Guy alleged that Rwanda is still not safe for the survivors of the infamous Rwandan genocide.
“We would like to appeal to your good office, in our capacity as lawyers – advocates for Rwandese refugees survivors—to ask for the protection and stability of Rwandese refugees as well as their assets found on the soil of Malawi.
“Indeed, Your Excellency, the Rwandan refugees are survivors of numerous atrocities and crimes against humanity and genocide perpetrated by the RPF/RPA since October 1 1990 in Rwanda and former Zaire during 1996-97 period as documented by the 1994 UNHCR Gersony report, the 1998 Roberto Garreton report…,” the letter reads.
Government’s plans to relocate refugees to Dzaleka have not gone unchallenged.
For example, on April 28 2021, Elie Mukunzi obtained a High Court injunction tying the government’s hands.
High Court Judge Mandala Mambulasa was hearing a case on similar grounds.
The courts have since given the government the green light to go ahead with the move.