Security is a crucial component of the social wellbeing and prosperity of any nation. National security has been described as the ability of a state to cater for the protection and defence of its citizens.
However, national security can be challenged in many ways including the influx of irregular immigrants.
While immigration is a normal globalisation process, irregular immigration poses threats to the host country.
Malawi is grappling with an influx of refugees and irregular immigrants largely because the country is peaceful. These irregular immigrants are blamed for allegedly increasing crime and conducting business activities without required permits.
Whether founded or not, there is a belief held by immigrants, especially from Tanzania and Nigeria, that it is easy to obtain a passport in Malawi with which to travel to countries such as South Africa and the United States where entry is highly regulated.
In recent times, the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa have been the greatest generators of immigrants, with people from Burundi, Somalia, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania settling in various parts of Malawi.
Usually, refugees stay at Dzaleka Camp in Dowa. However, some do not wish to declare their refugee status for fear of being sent to the camp.
The mass grave of suspected irregular immigrants discovered in a forest in Mzimba should be an eye opener as far as tackling that kind of migration is concerned.
It is clear that despite some irregular immigrants being arrested and sent back home, the crisis continues rising.
Even the warnings from the Ministry of Homeland Security seem to be failing to curb irregular immigration into and through Malawi.
Irregular immigration is a serious concern that can no longer be viewed as a secondary matter to other national security challenges such as war and the proliferation of illicit drugs.
Organised crimes in the form of armed robbery, car hijacking and drug trafficking are also committed by some irregular immigrants.
Again, greed by some authorities who shield irregular immigrants can make Malawi a breeding ground for terrorist activities.
Additionally, the failure of a country to control the entry of irregular immigrants will lead not only to their taking away employment opportunities that could have been enjoyed by native citizens and legal migrants, but also the overexploitation of social benefits.
The growth of conflicts between nationals and immigrants is also reflected through the undue socioeconomic competition that emerges in the business arena.
There are allegations that the immigrants sell their goods at relatively cheaper prices because they skip some processes that would drain more money from imports in the form of taxes.
From this point of view, the benefit of eliminating irregular immigration is that most of these types of immigrants present problems instead of opportunities to the host nation.
Malawi has the Immigration Act, which affirms its sovereign right to determine who may enter the country and under what circumstances.
Irregular immigration burdens the economy, presents public safety risks and enriches smugglers and other criminals.
In short, irregular immigration should be a priority national security issue that must be dealt with quickly, firmly and forcibly.
Therefore, the first and most logical approach to controlling this kind of immigration is sealing our porous borders across the country.
Border control consists of physically regulating the border through increased manpower and mounting of barriers, applying new procedures and technology and rigidly enforcing the law.
The National Registration Bureau, which creates databases of all citizens of Malawi, must issue national identification cards to only eligible Malawians.
This would help in distinguishing migrants from citizens. However, it has to be followed by the integration of all communities without discrimination.
There must be proper coordination and collaboration between the Ministry of Homeland Security, the Immigration Department and the United Nations refugee agency for successful operations.
It is an undisputed fact that Malawi is too soft on irregular immigrants. It is high time something was done to ensure our national security and sovereignty is not tampered with.
Citizens must also be sensitised to the dangers of aiding irregular immigrants. They must be vigilant and take part in preserving peace, calm, law and order in this country.
*The author is an international relations and political science scholar.