HomeNational NewsNationalChitipa MPs, chiefs accept to host refugees, asylum seekers

Chitipa MPs, chiefs accept to host refugees, asylum seekers

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Members of Parliament (MPs) and traditional leaders from Chitipa have given the government a go ahead to open a refugee camp in the district as one way of decongesting Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa.

But the lawmakers and chiefs asked the government and its partners to ensure that host communities are benefiting from the social amenities designated for the refugees to avoid conflicts.

They made the remarks in Lilongwe on Tuesday during a briefing for traditional leaders and members of Chitipa District Council ahead of a visit to Dzaleka on Wednesday.

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) organized the briefing with financial support from the Canadian Embassy through Umodzi (Peace Building and Advocacy) Project. The project is aimed at providing a platform for dialogue to enhance social-cohesion and peace building.

Traditional leaders, MPs and councillors from Chitipa pose for a photo with Minister of Homeland Security Ken Zikhale Ng’oma after the opening of the briefing–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu

Speaking on behalf of the chiefs, Senior Chief Wenya said the people of Chitipa are equally concerned with the deteriorating standards of living, which refugees and asylum seekers are being subjected to as a result of congestion at Dzaleka.

“Personally, I feel very passionate when I see refugees because my own relatives were refugees elsewhere. Some died there. So, I feel really passionate when I see refugees,” he said, “We have been assured that when the government opens a refugee camp in my area, the refugees will be taken care of by various government departments and partners. We believe the host communities will also benefit from the services that are offered to refugees.”

He parried away fears that host communities would turn against the refugees and asylum seekers once in the new camp, assuring that their subjects have now understood the importance of hosting people who flee war.

“This time, our subjects are ready. The host communities are ready. But I must admit that at first, I, too, had mixed reactions, more especially because these reactions were fueled by a few individuals, some traditional leaders, politicians and the big business communities who feared competition. But the community around my area has now welcomed the idea to open the camp,” assured Wenya.

Chitipa East lawmaker Kezzie Msukwa concurred with Senior Chief Wenya, adding that communities will benefit in various ways from hosting the refugees and asylum seekers.

Msukwa: We must provide housing that preserves dignity for refugees and asylum seekers–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu

Msukwa mentioned business skills and economic activities as some of the benefits accruing from hosting the refugees.

CCJP National Coordinator Boniface Chibwana said the Commission was relieved that the government and its partners are making headway in finding lasting solutions to some of the challenges refugees and asylum seekers are facing.

Chibwana said decongesting Dzaleka Refugee Camp will play a crucial role in addressing water, sanitation and hygiene problems that the encampers are experiencing at the camp.

“Dzaleka Refugee Camp, which is already small, a camp that was supposed to have 12,000 people or 10,000, now has 53,000 people. And if you go in the camp itself, if you look at the social, economic condition of the people, when you look at the WASH activities, it’s really terrible. So, we felt the rights of the refugees within the camp were being trampled down on and we felt it is imperative that we should collaborate with the government in the effort to help decongest it,” he said.

Chibwana: Humanity tells us to do go unto others as we would want them do to us–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu

“So, the acceptance by MPs and chiefs from Chitipa to host a refugee camp is a great relief to us. It’s a huge success because you know, previously, people had deeper reservations,” added Chibwana.

In his remarks, the Minister of Homeland Security Ken Zikhale Ng’oma said the Malawi Government has already presented its request to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for financial support towards construction of facilities in preparation for the opening of the new camp in Chitipa.

Ng’oma said they expect the refugee agency to act with speed so that the government can start work.

Meanwhile, chiefs and MPs from Chitipa are expected to visit Dzaleka Refugee Camp on Wednesday to appreciate the conditions under which the refugees and asylum seekers are living.

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