UNHCR against forced Mozambique refugees’ return
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says the government should ensure that people who continue flocking into the country from the neighbouring Mozambique due to alleged political turmoil in Tete are not returned to Mozambique against their own will.
The first Mozambicans arrived in Kapise Village in the area of Traditional Authority Nthache in Mwanza in June last year but the flow of migrants has rapidly increased in the past three months.
While Malawi government continues to accommodate the fleeing Mozambicans, the government of Mozambique insists there are no unrests in that country and those people who have been crossing the borders should return home.
But in an interview yesterday, UNHCR representative in Malawi, Monique Ekoko, said the return of any person to Mozambique should be voluntary.
“What we need to ensure is that these people are not returned to Mozambique against their will because they are allegedly fleeing prosecution, as they tell us, and until we can establish that these people are not persons of concern and are not fleeing prosecution, they will continue to stay in Malawi. And also the return has to be voluntary and cannot be done against their will,” Ekoko said.
She appealed to the government of Malawi to open the doors and provide the much-needed protection to all asylum-seeking Mozambicans.
“I know they have deployed security forces to assist the people but as the number increases there will also be a need for more security forces to come in.
“And we will continue to appeal to them to provide adequate space so that international community including the UN and all UN partners who are involved can provide the much needed assistance in a conducive environment,” she said.
Ekoko said the conditions at the camp site in Mwanza are not acceptable and the problem is of the government of Malawi and not so much of the government of Mozambique.
According to her, more than 10,000 refugees are on the ground even though UNHCR has registered just over 8,000. She said the organisation is trying to meet the needs of the growing numbers.
Ekoko said, on average, almost 350 people from Mozambique are flocking into Kapise camp per day.
“The situation there, I must say, is very challenging. ‘Challenging’ is the word that I will use because there are a lot of challenges we are facing in terms of adequate space to accommodate these people.
“Also we are facing challenges in terms of delivering the much needed services to these people because we don’t have proper allocation and everything to do so,” Ekoko said.
The governments of Malawi and Mozambique are yet to agree on how to treat the refugees.
Malawi’s Secretary for Home Affairs and Internal Security Bestone Chisamile told the Daily Times that Lilongwe had plans to relocate the refugees to Luwani Refugee Camp but Maputo wants them returned to Mozambique.
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