By Iommie Chiwalo
The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI), has challenged government to suspend its inconsiderate decision of relocating refugees and asylum seekers as the exercise is just but one state sponsored xenophobia.
CDEDI Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa in a press statement further warn Homeland Security Minister Jean Sendeza and the Deputy Inspector General of Police responsible for operations Casper Chalera, to desist from using sentiments that may culminate into state sponsored xenophobic attacks on refugees and asylum seekers in Malawi.
The warning follows Chalera’s instructions to the police to start spotting or identifying refugees and asylum seekers living outside Dzaleka camp ahead of the November 30, 2022 and January 31, 2023 deadlines for refugees and asylum seekers to relocate to the camp from rural and urban centres respectively.
According to Namiwa, his organisation and of course well meaning Malawians find such an order by authorities highly insensitive and ill-timed owing to the conduct of the bad apples that seem to have hijacked the police service.
“This is a blank cheque to these bad apples to start looting and plundering innocent foreign nationals’ property in the name of carrying out such an order on one hand, while some criminal elements outside the service may also take advantage of the same to victimize innocent people,” he said.
He has since reminded Minister Sendeza and DIG Chalera that refugees and asylum seekers are human beings, hence have basic human rights and ought to be treated with dignity.
“Although, there is nothing illegal with the exercise, CDEDI and all well-meaning Malawians fault both the approach and timing. Malawi should channel available resources and energy to find solutions to the multiple challenges facing millions of Malawians such as food shortage in prisons, sky-rocketing maize prices and fertilizer, not spending the same on a non-priority area.
Meanwhile, CDEDI has proposed total suspension of the whole exercise pending an all-inclusive stakeholders meeting where all the contentious issues shall be discussed and ironed out using human rights based approach.
According to a police internal memo dated November 25, 2022 which is now in public domain , the decision by Chalera follows a government directive that the refugees relocate to Dzaleka by set dates.
Government set November 30, 2022 and February 1, 2023 as deadlines for refugees and asylum seekers residing in rural and urban areas respectively.