The refugee crisis


In her poem titled ‘Home’, the brilliant Somali poet, Warsan Shire writes: “no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. You only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well”.

What Shire’s persona is saying here, among other things, is that there is no one who chooses to be a refugee. It takes a certain level of suffering for somebody to leave their home and seek refugee somewhere else – in a strange land, which in their wildest imagination, they never thought they would see. That is ‘refugeehood’ for you.

So, when we see people coming from Ethiopia, Somalia, Burundi and other war-torn countries, we should realise that there are forces beyond their control that have seen them migrating to otherwise unhomely places.


It is not easy for somebody to leave everything behind and run for the border. We are very lucky as a country to not have experienced conflict that reaches such levels of humanitarian crises.

Instead, we are that place where displaced people seek refuge and find a place that they can call home, even if only for a fleeting moment.

That said, the issue dominating substantial conversations in our society today is that of refugees being “chased out” of our mainstream society to Dzaleka Camp.


Minister of Homeland Security, Ken Zikhale Ng’oma, has made it very clear that undocumented and illegal foreigners must not inhabit places they are not supposed to occupy and that they must not trade where they are not supposed to trade.

This has seen foreign nationals, mostly Burundians, being evacuated from townships and cities to Dzaleka. This exercise has attracted mixed reactions with a good number of Malawians siding with those affected.

The argument that the sympathisers are advancing is mostly leaning towards sensationalism. There are people who see the relocation of undocumented foreign nationals as a form of xenophobia. These people are contending that an African should never be a foreigner in Africa.

How they define Africa and Africanness is a whole other topic of debate, but such arguments are purely based on fallacious conceptions of autochthony and appeals to sympathy. If we were to add a pint of objectivity to the subject, we may arrive at more rational conclusions.

It is true that humanity comes before nationality. It is correct that all humans (not only Africans) have a right to occupy space on mother earth.

The borders that we have are arbitrary and often facile constructions of space that thrive on keeping others out. But the existence of borders, which create nationalities, has performed certain functions that we cannot ignore today.

Citizens of specific nation-states have both privileges and responsibilities that are tied to their citizenship. The one who must enjoy privileges by virtue of being a citizen must as well uphold their responsibility to the state and be willing to face any consequences attached to their belonging.

The point is: as a Malawian, one must abide by the laws of Malawi and be willing to defend the country in times of need.

Citizenship requires commitment and sacrifices. This is why there are always checks and procedures to be followed when any human is to be considered for residency in any country on Earth.

The host nation has to make sure that the particular individual lives up to certain expectations before they let them in. This is standard practice whether in America, Europe, or any other place.

In a democratic dispensation, right or wrong is purely decided on the demands of the law.

As such, some Malawians should not evoke emotions to defend things that do not make sense.

Any decision that we make and any conclusion we arrive at should be purely based on facts and a rational understanding of the rule of law.

If foreign nationals want to be incorporated in mainstream society as citizens, asylum seekers, or permanent residents, there are procedures that must be followed.

Those people who want to live with us in our communities must follow that procedure and no one will come knocking on their doors.

It is true that we are a poor country, but poverty has never been a synonym of lawlessness. This refugee crisis is nothing but an uninformed emotional outburst.

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