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  • Christine Chumbler
    Unwelcome Visitors In Malawi African Church Information Service (Nairobi) January 8, 2001 Blantyre Malawi is fast becoming a den of violent criminals who upon
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 8, 2001
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      Unwelcome Visitors In Malawi

      African Church Information Service
      (Nairobi)
      January 8, 2001

      Blantyre

      Malawi is fast becoming a den of violent criminals who upon entry
      into the country masquerade as refugees, many law abiding
      citizens now fear.

      The government admits that some people who claim to be
      refugees when crossing into Malawi are notorious criminals in their
      respective countries who avoid to face justice for the crimes they
      commit.

      Chief Immigration Officer Hudson Mleme acknowledged in an
      interview that some criminals enter Malawi as refugees especially
      those coming from the war-torn Great Lakes states. But the
      government cannot close borders to bar people who say they are
      fleeing from war from seeking refuge, he stressed.

      He says Malawi being a signatory to the Geneva Convention, was
      under an obligation not to expel any immigrant who claims to be
      fleeing persecution from mother country.

      "If the Department of Immigration was given the mandate to clear
      everyone coming into the country right at the border, problems of
      the influx of illegal immigrants would be put out of question. With
      funds permitting, deportation could be done immediately before
      one disappears," said Mleme.

      The immigration chief explained that under the current laws,
      immigrants identified as asylum seekers are welcomed with open
      hands into the country and asked to report to a committee at any
      other convenient time for an interview.

      The refugees are always allowed to enter the country. In many
      cases, there is no follow-up to their cases. As for the asylum
      seekers, it is up to them to decide whether to leave the country or
      not.

      The Department of Disaster and Preparedness, Relief and
      Rehabilitation says it is the responsibility of the immigration
      department to make follow-ups on the various categories of
      immigrants.

      But immigration officials toss the responsibility to the United
      Nations High Commission for Refugees saying the UN agency is
      responsible for the welfare of refugees.

      UNHCR head of liaison in Malawi, Michael Owor, said refugees are
      human beings displaced from their countries because of war,
      among other factors, and that they must not be denied refugee
      status for them to live a normal life just because they are being
      suspected to be criminals.

      Most organisations dealing with refugees often complain that on
      human rights grounds screening of refugees could be ambiguous
      and offensive especially when trying to distinguish a genuine case
      from other cases.

      The level of freedom accorded to more than 4,000 asylum seekers
      and refugees in Malawi is being abused. This has not amused the
      authorities and the refugees alike. They are seriously considering
      taking serious action on the development.

      To prove to be a genuine refugee, one has to fulfil "refugee
      status" requirements, Dzaleka Refugee Camp administrator,
      Winston Nawanga, said. He explained that wherever the refugees
      go they move with such information and anyone claiming to be a
      refugee must therefore produce a document in support.

      Nawanga said some refugees "transfer their problems from their
      countries to where they have been granted asylum". He noted that
      keeping together people from different countries who are on war is
      not easy and safe.

      "Some refugees transfer problems from their homes to the camp.
      For instance, a Rwandese would not cope well with a Burundian.
      The same situation is with the others," Nawanga stressed.

      He acknowledged that there were some illegal immigrants who
      enter Malawi through some illegal routes and involve themselves
      in criminal activities. When they are cornered they claim to be
      refugees. He said such are the types of aliens tarnishing the
      image of others.

      Nawanga, however, pointed out that refugees in Malawi were
      allowed to go out to do any kind of business as long as they
      reported back to the relevant authorities within a period of 14
      days.

      Critics say such freedom of movement of refugees is the
      concession that facilitates some of them especially those who were
      soldiers in their countries to commit violent offences such as
      armed robbery, vehicle hijacks and general theft. When they are
      successful in the criminal acts they flee the country.

      Leaders of refugees from war-torn countries residing at Dzaleka
      Refugee Camp in central Malawi blame "economic immigrants"
      from their countries who are tarnishing their images.

      Leader of the Sudanese at the camp James Deng also took
      exception with "economic immigrants", saying it was very
      unfortunate to pretend to be refugees when one was only seeking
      economic prosperity.

      "We did not choose to be refugees. It was all due to uncontrolled
      situation which forced us to be in this kind of situation," regrets
      leader of the Congolese, Kambining Jones.

      Many Malawians are worried with the influx of especially illegal
      immigrants who have taken over most of the shops in Malawi's
      capital, Lilongwe. The illegal immigrants are blamed for the high
      rate of crime especially armed robberies and car hijacking.

      Citizens are urging the government to follow the example of South
      Africa immigration authorities where illegal immigrants are
      deported within a short period of time upon discovery.

      The immigration department is at the centre of criticisms over the
      influx of illegal immigrants. Many critics say is supposed to carry
      out the mopping out campaigns on weekly basis including
      thorough checking of all illegal border routes where they suspect
      the illegal immigrants pass.

      Mr. Kennedy Mughogho of Department of Disaster Preparedness,
      Relief and Rehabilitation says immigration authorities should
      establish in- transit facilities for initial screening right at the border
      so that those who do not qualify as asylum seekers should be sent
      back immediately without involving other stakeholders.

      Dzaleka Refugee Camp in central Malawi has 204 Somalis, 1105
      Congolese, 599 Burundians, nine Sudanese, six Eritreans, while
      Uganda, Angola, Comoros and Ethiopia have one each. In all
      there are 3,797 refugees.

      Reported by Brian Ligomeka in Blantyre

      *****

      Malawi to Ratify SADC Trade Protocol February

      Panafrican News Agency
      January 8, 2001

      Lilongwe, Malawi

      Malawi will in February ratify the Southern Africa Development
      Community or SADC trade protocol, a senior trade official has
      disclosed.

      Geofrey Mkandawire, Malawi's director of commerce, said the
      move will make the country eligible for a preferential regional trade
      arrangement within the 14-member economic bloc.

      "Malawi is currently processing the instrument of ratification which
      will be deposited with the SADC secretariat before the end of
      February," he added.

      At least five SADC members - South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland,
      Botswana and Mauritius - have already ratified the protocol,
      according to Mkandawire.

      He said if Malawi had ratified the protocol by 1 September 2000,
      its import duty would have been reduced by 10 percent by now.

      "The 10 percent reduction is an aggregate figure for products
      regarded as least sensitive," he said. Goods are labelled under
      three categories - least sensitive, sensitive and most sensitive.

      Meanwhile, SADC trade ministers are expected to converge in
      South Africa February to iron out unresolved issues surrounding
      the proposed trade protocol.
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