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‘We are relocating refugees silently’

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Oliver Kumbambe

Secretary for Homeland Security Oliver Kumbambe has disclosed that the Ministry of Homeland Security is relocating refugees and asylum seekers in silence.

Kumbambwe said this in an interview on Friday when asked about the silence on the relocation of refugees and asylum seekers since the first deadline has passed.

The government, through the Ministry of Homeland Security, set November 30 2022 and February 1 2023 as deadlines for refugees and asylum seekers residing in rural and urban areas respectively, to go back to Dzaleka Refugee Camp.

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On November 24, Minister of Homeland Security, Jean Sendeza assured the nation that the deadlines remained unchanged and after November 30 the relocation exercise would commence.

“We have refugees that are coming back to the camp. We have registered a lot of them that have come back to the camp, as of now over 300 have said they want to go back to their original countries. We are making processes for those,” Kumbambe explained.

He said 47 families went back to Dzaleka Refugee Camp by mid November but more continue trickling back to the camp.

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Meanwhile, the Small-Scale Business Operators Association (SSBOA) wrote to President Lazarus Chakwera asking him to intervene to ensure that refugees are relocated.

The association wrote Chakwera a request letter dated November 23, 2022 and signed by the association’s general secretary Tennyson Mulimbula. The letter was sent through the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).

“This request comes after a long time of experiencing and observing the failure by the line ministers and heads of government departments and ministries in addressing the problems.

“The problems are impinging the growth of businesses owned by indigenous small scale traders, due to the influx of undocumented foreign nationals, asylum seekers and the refugees who are residing and plying illegal businesses in Malawi,” the letter reads.

Mulimbula confirmed submitting the letter to the OPC.

On December 15, the association also petitioned Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara to engage Minister of Homeland Security Jean Sendeza on the matter.

The association argued that the refugees needed to return to the camp because they were indulging in small businesses like selling kachaso (locally distilled liquor).

Mulanje Bale legislator Victor Musowa, who received the traders’ petition during the 49th session of parliament which has been prorogued, promised to have the matter tabled but failed.

Musowa said he expects the issue to come out in Parliament in February next year.

“I tried all means to have it discussed but it failed, I have already submitted a question while waiting for the February sitting,” Musowa said.

In November, Sendeza said the Treasury had committed to provide K300 million required for the relocation exercise.

According to the ministry, there are about 8,000 refugees and asylum seekers spread across the country.

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