UNHCR urges Malawi authorities to reconsider relocation decision
28 November 2022
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, deeply regrets the decision taken by the GoM to proceed with the executeion of its directive to relocate refugees living in rural and urban centres back to Dzaleka camp. The refugee agency is urging the authorities to reconsider its decision which will have disastrous consequences on many refugee lives.
Lilongwe, 25 November 2022 - UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, deeply regrets the decision taken by the Malawi government on Thursday 24 November to proceed with the execution of its directive to relocate refugees living in rural and urban centres across the country, back to Dzaleka camp. The refugee agency is urging the authorities to reconsider its decision which will have disastrous consequences on many refugee lives.
Some 8,000 refugees living in rural and urban locations are expected to return to the already congested Dzaleka camp, which presently accommodates 56,425 refugees. Dzaleka was originally established to accommodate up to 12,000 refugees. Relocating several thousands refugees back to the camp will have dire consequences on the provision of critical basic services such as health services, education, and protection programmes.
“The relocation means that children will have to leave their schools and breadwinners to abandon their employment or small businesses and return to a camp where they will be dependent on humanitarian assistance,” says KOUAME Cyr Modeste, UNHCR’s Representative in Malawi.
UNHCR is also very concerned about the extremely tight deadlines given to refugees for their relocation. Refugees living in rural areas have been given until 30 November 2022 and those living in urban locations until 1 February 2023 to relocate to Dzaleka camp.
While UNHCR applauds the government’s offer of Luwani settlement as an alternative to Dzaleka camp, time and significant financial resources are needed to make it habitable with the installation of basic services such as water, sanitation, repairs to roads and other facilities. UNHCR and its partners are fundraising to develop the settlement even as the refugee agency faces critical funding challenges to its operations globally.
Critical underfunding is already impacting current service provision to refugees and asylum seekers in Malawi. As of 31 October 2022, UNHCR had only received 29 percent of the USD 22.9 million required to adequately support refugees and asylum-seekers this year alone, in Malawi. This has crippled UNHCR’s ability to meet the protection and livelihood needs of the people it serves.
Relocating self-sufficient and productive refugees and asylum-seekers to Dzaleka will not only lead to loss of livelihood but will compel them to rely on humanitarian agencies which are all facing critical funding shortfalls.
Therefore, UNHCR appeals 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. Alternatively, UNHCR appeals to the Government for the time required to ensure essential services are in place before relocating refugees to Luwani settlement.
UNHCR appreciates the Government of Malawi’s efforts to ensure the protection, safety and security of all refugees and asylum-seekers.