Maputo — The number of refugees and asylum seekers in Mozambique is continuing to rise as people migrate from the Great Lakes region, reports the daily newspaper "Noticias".
Speaking in Maputo on Tuesday on the eve of World Refugee Day, Marla Hamene of the United Nations Refugees Agency (UNHCR) said that Mozambique is a preferred destination, with 10,040 refugees and 4,538 asylum seekers currently in the country.
Most refugees are from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan.
Hamene was unable to give figures for the annual influx because migratory movements are triggered by wars and social and political instability. Therefore, the numbers vary considerably.
According to Hamene, the period 2010 to 2011 saw the largest influx due to the crisis in Somalia and the re-emergence of conflict in the DRC.
Most of the refugees have been accommodated at the Maratane camp in the northern province of Nampula, which is home to 9,741 refugees and asylum seekers. Of this number 2,759 are asylum seekers and 6,982 refugees.
According to Hamene, the refugees enjoy the same rights and duties as a Mozambican citizen, including the right to access education, health and other basic services.
"Many refugees have accessed education and attended universities. After graduation they are able to make a contribution to society. Some refugees are teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers or engineers, contributing to the country's development", explained Hamene.
To mark World Refugee Day the UNHCR, in partnership with the National Refugee Support Institute (INAR), launched an awareness campaign to explain the plight of refugees and the contribution that they make to the country.
In April, Mozambique's Deputy Minister of the Interior, Jose Mandra, claimed that illegal immigration has fallen sharply. He stated, "today we are talking of about 20 illegal immigrants a month, whereas the figure for 2010 was 7,000, equivalent to about 600 immigrants a month".
In recent years, a number of illegal immigrants have used Mozambique as a corridor to get to the more prosperous South Africa.