CSOs tell Govt to suspend relocation of refugees and asylum seekers

Human rights activists against refugee relocation in Malawi

A consortium of Civil Society Organisation led by Youth and Society has called on the Government to immediately cease the relocation of refugees and asylum seekers in Malawi, saying the exercise has been hijacked by criminal acts.

Speaking at a press briefing, representative of CSOs Charles Kajoloweka said the relocation exercise which should uphold the rights of vulnerable individuals has been tainted by acts of lawlessness within the Malawi Police Service (MPS) and certain party cadres, resulting in gross human rights violations and as CSOs they demand an immediate stop to this state- sponsored lawlessness.

“On 27th March 2023, the Government of Malawi issued a directive mandating the relocation of all refugees residing outside designated areas back to the camp within 14 days. Since then, our proactive engagement in assessing the human rights implications of this exercise has revealed alarming lawlessness and gross violations. The MPS has resorted to excessive and disproportionate force during arrests of suspected illegal immigrants and refugees, demonstrating outright illegality,” said Kajoloweka.

According to Kajoloweka, vulnerable individuals from the Rwandese and Burundian
communities have suffered significantly. They have been subject to exploitation by the
Police, who demanded bribes and confiscated their hard eamed property and money.

He added: Furthermore, there is public information implicating the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) cadres and the Police, to have instigated terror and committed serious crimes under the guise of safeguarding national security.”

The CSOs which include Youth and Society, Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Centre for Human Rights, Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) and Inua Advocacy have called on Government to investigate the violations and criminal acts, which they claim include extortion of money and rape cases, before they go for other alternatives.

The CSOs also want Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and the independent Complaints Commission (ICC) to conduct independent investigations on the matter and bring perpetrators to book.

The Government, through the Ministry of Homeland Security has been relocating the refugees and asylum seekers from communities to Dzaleka Refugee Camp, particularly those that have been operating businesses without permission.