Raphael Ndabaga, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo and director for the Volunteer Social Workers organization at the Dzaleka refugee camp, says the refugees cannot object to the government’s decision, but he is worried about overcrowding at the already-congested camp.
“At first Dzaleka was a place to only 10,000 to 15,000 people, but currently as we are talking, Dzaleka accommodates more than 48,000 people. It is already congested. So, bringing those people back again, its alike [to] congesting the camp in another aspect,” Ndabaga said.
The government decision follows complaints from local businesspeople against stiff competition from foreign nationals they say attract more customers by offering lower prices.
Michael Kayiyatsa, the executive director for Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, says the government decision is likely to trigger violence against the foreigners.
“And we have seen before that there have been conflicts between local communities and refugees especially from Burundi who are doing business in the cities. So, this will embolden them to say, ‘OK, now this is time to get rid of our business competitors,'” he said.
Kayiyatsa has asked the government to rescind the decision because he says there is no proof the refugees living outside the camp are posing a threat to national security.
“We think government should ratify the refugee protocol so that refugees in Malawi should be able to work [outside the camp], seek employment as in other countries, because currently, the law in Malawi bars refugees from working,” Kayiyatsa said.
The spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Malawi, Rumbani Msiska, says the agency has no immediate comment on the matter.