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Refugees’ relocation starts in week’s time

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Minister of Home Affairs Jean Sendeza has said the government will proceed with its plans to relocate refugees and asylum seekers to Dzaleka camp despite the High Court granting them leave for appeal of an earlier order.

In August, the High Court lifted an order the refugees obtained stopping the government from relocating them.

According to the injunction dated September 12, 2022, which Malawi News has seen, High Court Judge Mandala Mambulasa granted the refugees permission to appeal the earlier order.

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“Upon hearing counsel for the claimants and upon reading the sworn statement, it is hereby ordered that leave be and is hereby granted to the claimants (except for the 1st claimant) to appeal against the judgement made by the High Court dated 12th August 2022,” reads the order.

Representative of the refugees, Bantubino Leopard, confirmed the order.

“The High Court has made a fresh injunction against government for the move of refugees and asylum seekers to Dzaleka and others to their countries,” said Leopard.

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But Sendeza said what the refugees have obtained is just permission to appeal the earlier order and not stopping the government from relocating them.

“Whether there is an appeal or not, we are still going to effect the relocation of the refugees and we are starting from the first week of October,” Sendeza said.

On August 12, the High Court allowed the government to immediately relocate the refugees and asylum seekers to Dzaleka camp.

Sendeza said her ministry had set deadlines to relocate refugees in urban areas by November 30, 2022 and those in rural areas by February 1, 2023.

In April last year, government gave the refugees and asylum seekers who had left the country’s only refugee camp and were staying in rural areas of the country 14 days to return to the camp or face eviction.

The government has always argued that about 2,000 refugees who live among the communities outside the camp pose a danger to national security.

However, rights campaigners in Malawi and around the world have warned the government to be careful in the implementation of the order to avoid stirring up resentment in communities against the refugees.

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malawi, Rumbani Msiska, told the media then that the move to relocate the refugees was concerning.

He said while government might have had legal justifications for the relocation, returning the refugees to the camp would create serious problems at the country’s only refugee camp such as overcrowding and a scramble for water and health facilities.

According to UNHCR, as of December 2021, Malawi had 52,678 persons of concern. The majority live in the Dzaleka refugee camp.

The United Nations body says Dzaleka camp registered a monthly average of 300 new arrivals (62 percent from the DRC, 19 percent from Burundi and 7 percent Rwanda and 2 percent other nationalities.

It says 45 percent of them were women, and 48 percent children.

The camp, according to UNHCR, was initially established to host between 10,000 to 12,000 people but now hosts over 52,000 individuals.

Of the total population, 21,530 have refugee status, 30,910 are asylum seekers, with 238 others of concern.

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