Malawi under criticism for clampdown on refugees


Dzaleka refugee camp, Malawi. Photo by United Nations

from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
Malawi Bureau
LILONGWE, (CAJ News) – MALAWIAN authorities have been urged to stop the arrest and detention of refugees and asylum seekers across the country.

The outcry follows a crackdown by the military and police in the capital, Lilongwe, and other districts.

Malawi’s homeland security ministry recently stated that it had detained 902 refugees and asylum seekers since May 17 after uniformed forces shut down the foreigners’ businesses, temporarily detained them in prisons and left them empty-handed at the overcrowded Dzaleka refugee camp, about 40 kilometers from Lilongwe.

Some of those arrested reported beatings and destruction or theft of their property.

“Malawi’s forcible transfers of refugees and asylum seekers to Dzaleka camp is a misguided and disproportionate response to alleged economic and security concerns, fueled by government scapegoating,” said Idriss Ali Nassah, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Not only are the authorities committing abuses during arrests and detaining children, summarily removing them from their homes amounts to unlawful forced evictions.”

The roundups of refugees and asylum seekers follow a March 27 government directive to enforce its so-called encampment policy.

The government ordered all refugees and asylum seekers living in urban and rural areas to voluntarily return to the Dzaleka refugee camp by April 15 or face enforced relocation.

Reports indicate that children have been among those caught up in the crackdown and forcibly taken to Maula Central Prison, a maximum-security prison in Lilongwe.

The affected foreigners are victims of a pledge by the government that trade and business opportunities be reserved for locals.

This is in violation of international protocol Malawi is signatory to.

The United Nations refugee agency has also denounced the arrests and detention of refugees and asylum seekers.

– CAJ News

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