The National Assembly has recommended to Treasury to allocate K280 million to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship services for the repatriation of 400 finally rejected refugees and asylum seekers living in Malawi.
The Parliamentary International relations Committee made the recommendation with a view the move will help in decongesting Dzaleka Refugee Camp and save the country’s resources.
It noted with concern that many of the alleged refugees were mostly people who had migrated due to economic challenges and not necessarily instabilities in their respective countries.
Presenting the report in the house, a member of the Committee Victoria Kingston, indicated that integration of refugees in local communities has led to competition over social services, environmental resources and business opportunities.
“The Committee therefore strongly recommends that the Government of Malawi in conjunction with other implementing partners, should control the movement of people who migrate, freeing economic challenges in their countries in the name of refugees by tightening the refugee screening processes.
“The Committee also noted with serious concern that some refugees were illegally living within communities causing tension as a result of competition over social services, environmental resources and business opportunities with the local Malawians,” read the report.
Currently about 47,000 refugees are being hosted at the camp initially designed to accommodate 12,000 people.
The overcrowding made it difficult in quarantining contacts of confirmed persons in the camp due to COVID-19 myths.
Despite stakeholders such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), World Food Programme, Plan International, government and Jesuit Refugee service doing a commendable job, the Committee noted that Malawi’s financial muscle was not strong enough to provide adequate resources for the management of their ever increasing numbers.
“The Committee, therefore, recommends that government, through the Ministry of Homeland Security and other responsible agencies, should continue with the sweeping exercise of all asylum seekers and refugees living illegally in various parts of the country,” she said.
Without abrogating her obligations to the international instruments signed, a strong recommendation has been made to government to engage the international community on the financial and environmental pressures exerted on her by their ever-increasing numbers including those from the regions that are relatively peaceful.
Having worked for UNHCR for 19 years, George Chaponda advised that everyone is a potential refugee hence caution needs to be exercised in handling the asylum seekers.
He cited three situations such as voluntary repatriation, resettlement and integration as some of the solutions to the refugee situation.
The Mulanje South West parliamentarian also reminded government on international obligations and protocols which must be followed and on the need to incorporate the refugee determination board which assesses one’s status.
The issue generated interest among the legislators who felt the refugees have overstayed their welcome as some of their countries are now peaceful hence their continued stay is not justified.
Some felt they have too much power than their host country to the extent of challenging their relocation to the Camp which has not happened in other nations.
Kingston queried on the status of the injunction refugees obtained against government relocating them to Dzaleka camp from the towns and cities
In response Homeland Security Minister Richard Chimwendo Banda stated that government does not have definite dates to close Dzaleka as Malawi is still involved in peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), hence can’t be sending conflicting messages.
Chimwendo-Banda expressed hope the injunctions will be lifted and that the Ministry is just waiting for the court’s determination on the matter.