Malawi and other Southern African countries, which are hosting refugees, have been urged to soften up their laws and allow refugees to work or conduct businesses for their survival.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Southern African Bureau Deputy Director, Leonard Zulu, made the remarks in Mangochi District last Thursday on the sidelines of Refugee Law workshop for judges and judiciary staff.
A month ago, UNHCR released a statement appealing to well-wishers to provide funds to buy food for refugees who were then surviving on half food ration at Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa District.
UNHCR said it was looking for K1.3 billion to improve food situation from October to December this year.
However, Zulu said the situation has not improved considering that UNHCR depends on donors to provide resources.
“We have 25 million refugees globally and in Malawi, we have around 47, 000 refugees. In most cases, we do have shortfalls in supply chain, especially to do with availability of food. So what we are urging the government and the people of Malawi is that they should allow refugees to work in the host community so that they engage in economic activities for their self-reliance,” he said.
Zulu said UNHCR does not want the refugees to depend fully on aid.
“Refugees have some talents which can help them to survive within the legal means. So it is important that we should try and include them in the social economic fabric of the country. They should go out like any other person and operate in the open society,” Zulu said.
While agreeing with the need to integrate the refugees in society, Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda said there was need to exercise caution to avoid creating a scenario where some people will be migrating to Malawi in the absence of war in their original country.
“Although there are some restrictions, we believe we are doing enough to support refugees in the country. But we need to make sure that we are doing what is within the laws governing hosting of refugees,” he said.