United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has appealed to the Malawi Government to reconsider its decision on relocation of refugees.
UNHCR Representative in Malawi, Cyr Modeste Kouame, said in a statement released on Monday that they have learnt with deep regret and concern the decision taken by the Malawi Government on 27 March 2023 to proceed with the execution of its directive to relocate refugees living in rural and urban centres across the country back to Dzaleka Camp.
“While UNHCR appreciates the leniency exercised by the government regarding the previous relocation deadline for refugees in rural and urban areas, the UN Refugee Agency urges government to reconsider because the decision will have disastrous consequences on many refugees,” he said.
Kouame further said the refugees living in rural and urban areas are expected to return to the already congested Dzaleka Camp, which presently accommodates nearly 50, 000 people.
Dzaleka camp was originally established to accommodate up to 12, 000 refugees.
He said relocating several thousand refugees back to the camp will have dire consequences on the provision of critical basic services such as health and education, as well as protection activities.
Adding that the relocation means that children will have to leave their schools, and for breadwinners to abandon their employment or small businesses and retum to a camp where they will be dependent on humanitarian assistance.
UNHCR is also very concerned about the extremely tight deadline given for the relocation of all refugees back to Dzaleka camp which is now 01-15 April 2023, she said
Kouame also said the UNHCR’s underfunding is already impacting current service provision to refugees and asylum seekers in Malawi.
According to her as of 28 March 2023, the agency had only received six percent of the USD 27.2 million required to adequately support refugees and asylum-seekers in Malawi this year.
This has crippled UNHCR’s ability to meet the protection, assistance and livelihood needs of the people it serves.
He therefore appealed to the government to allow refugee families to remain in rural or urban settings where they can continue their education, employed, and operate their small businesses.
Kouame said the UNHCR appreciates the Government of Malawi’s efforts to ensure the protection, safety and security of all refugees and asylum-seekers.