Written by Gift Asibu
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the UN Refugee Agency, says it is concerned about the extreme tight deadline given for the relocation of all refugees back to Dzaleka Refugee Camp.
In a statement, UNHRC’s Representative to Malawi Cyr Modeste Kouame says while the agency appreciates the lenience exercised regarding the previous relocation deadline, the decision will have disastrous consequences on many refugees’ lives.
Kouame is lamenting that relocating self-sufficient and productive refugees and asylum seekers to Dzaleka Refugee Camp, would only exacerbate the problems the already overcrowded camp is facing.
“Currently the camp accommodates nearly 50 thousand people despite being originally established to accommodate up to 12 thousand refugees, as such, the decision will have dire consequences on the provision of critical basic services such as health and education”, reads part of the statement.
“The relocation means that all children will have to leave their schools, and for breadwinners to abandon their employment or small businesses and return to a camp where they will be dependent on humanitarian assistance”, adds the statement.
Underfunding is already impacting current service provision to refugees and asylum seekers in Malawi. As of March 28th, 2023, UNHCR had only received 6 percent of the USD27.2 million to adequately support refugees and asylum seekers in Malawi this year. This is said to have crippled UNHRC’s ability to meet the protection, assistance and livelihood needs of the people it serves.
UNHCR has therefore appealed to the government of Malawi to allow refugee families to remain in rural or urban settings where they can continue their education, be employed, and operate their small businesses.
Government started efforts to relocate refugees and asylum seekers residing outside Dzaleka Refugee Camp back in 2021, however, the fresh order has given the aforementioned until 15th April 2023 whilst indicating that after the ultimatum, the relocation will be enforced.