Dreary sight at Dzaleka

Dreary sight at Dzaleka


Refugees rounded up in a Malawi Government operation to relocate them to Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa District say they are living in dehumanising conditions and feel abandoned at the camp.

During a visit to the camp on Thursday, The Nation established that there were at least 920 refugees plucked from the country’s cities and town centres.

Some women rounded up in Blantyre languish in the sun waiting
to be allocated a tent at Dzaleka Refugee Camp

Burundian Bizimana Siriyaki, 35, who was rounded up from his shop in Area 24, Lilongwe, said in an interview he was being forced to share food with other members of his community because authorities are yet to provide them.

He said: “We got here with nothing. We had to scrounge up everything from plates, pots and food from sympathisers within the camp. on Wednesday, we [the families that arrived last week] only had sweet potatoes and water. That is all we could afford even after we contributed the little we had for a meal.

“This is the first proper meal we are going to have since on Thursday.”

Siriyaka said he was worried about his three children who were forced to leave their home without spare clothes.

“Look at the little ones, we had to beg for clothes from well-wishers. It is not OK for children that young to sleep on the cold floor, especially at night when the temperatures drop in the tents,” he said.

During the visit, scores of school-going children were seen loitering in the camp while others were playing. However, the look of concern on their parents’ faces was not hard to miss.

Siriyaka said it will be hard to enrol his three children in a new school considering that the third term is almost over.

Elsewhere, three sets of families were found waiting in the afternoon sun with the few personal belongings they managed to carry after they were caught in the sweeping exercise.

Joe, [not real name], a minor who was picked from his home in Machinjiri Township, Blantyre said he and his family have not eaten since they were transferred to the camp on Wednesday evening.

“When we got here, we were only shown a place to sleep for the night. We do not know whether that will be our permanent residence or we will be moved elsewhere,” he said.

But Hilda Kausiwa, Ministry of Homeland Security senior administration and operations manager in the Refugee Department, said those who left the camp have themselves to blame for their plight.

She said: “If the refugees had complied with the government order to return to the camp, they would have had enough time to transfer their belongings, either household property or merchandise from their businesses, to their designated areas.”

In one of the tents which we visited we saw that it was patitioned into small rooms by curtains and we were told that over 20 families were accommodated there.

On the floor, there were cartons spreads as mattresses.

Burundi Community zone leader Patrick Nduwimama explained that the challenge of space has now reached high levels and he was not sure where new arrivals would be sleeping.

He said the few toilets available were not enough for the already congested camp and feared an outbreak of waterborne diseases as  not enough water being provided.

Said Nduwimama: “We only receive K10 700 a month per individual, is this money enough to buy a bag of maize, charcoal, cooking oil and soap? We are starving here in the camp.”

Residence of refugees outside Dzaleka Camp was declared illegal through a High Court of Malawi ruling, which overturned previous liberal decisions made by the government committee established under the Refugees Act. Malawi Government last week launched the operation to smoke out refugees or asylum seekers without valid documentation, but residing in cities and towns outside the designated Dzaleka following the expiry of an April 15 2023 deadline for voluntary relocation.

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