Skip to content

Malawi’s Decision On Refugees Leaves Many Shaken

The Malawian government has ordered thousands of long-integrated refugees to return to its sole but badly overcrowded refugee camp, in a controversial move that many have vowed to resist. The UN estimates there are around 2,000 refugees residing outside the camp at Dzaleka, about 40 kilometres (30 miles) north of the capital Lilongwe. Many have lived there for years, setting up businesses in the town or marrying Malawians and having children with them. But the government argues they pose a potential danger to national security by living among locals. The UN refugee agency UNHCR in Malawi said the directive was in line with the country’s encampment laws, but advised the government to reconsider. It said, according to an official communication it received from the Homeland Security ministry, the decision was also taken in the light of “security concerns in order to protect both refugees and host communities following the volatile situation in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado area”. The deadline for refugees to return to the camp was April 28, but a last-minute court injunction gave them a brief respite. Meantime, Malawi insists it will challenge the court injunction, the latest in a series of legal tussles between the government and the refugees since 2016.