9 June 2017

Malawi: Karonga Residents Petition Malawi Parliament Over Plans to Relocate Refugee Camp

Karonga residents through Karonga-Chitipa Cultural Heritage on Thursday marched to Parliament Building in the capital Lilongwe to present a petition that condemned government's plans to relocate a refugee camp from Dzaleka in Dowa to Katili in Traditional Authority (T/A) Kyungu in Karonga.

The petition has been signed by traditional leaders, Karonga elected leaders, some district Nongovernmental organizations among others.

According to Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Grace Chiumia said the decision to relocate the refugee camp follows a concern by government that the camp at Dzaleka was near Lilongwe, the capital city, a development that compromises the country's security.

But petitioners argue that Katili is the only upland area initially meant for relocation of Malawians displaced by natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes.

"The refugee camp will disposes the locals of their land that is already allocated in preference to transferring a refugee camp which is already very well established in Dowa," reads the petition.

The petition was read at parliament by Karonga -Chitipa Heritage vice chairperson Sophie Kalinde and was received by Olipa Myaba Chiluba MP, the chairperson for home affairs and security Parliamentary committee.

In the petition, the Karonga residents asked government to repatriate all refugees or let them stay at Dzaleka.

"There is already a commotion at Dzaleka refugee camp between the refugees themselves especially by the Hutus and Tusis. We therefore don't want such issues happen in our district. We have been leaving peacefully and we don't want anyone to disturb us," reads part of the petition.

They wonder why government continue keeping the refugees who have stayed in the country for more than 20 years despite peace and stability returning in their countries.

The petition said dangling the carrot by various stakeholders for development to the people of Katili and Karonga for their acceptance of the refugee camp is "a direct violation of the right to dignity and development."

Speaking after receiving the petition, Chiluba commended the petitioners for peaceful march to Parliament.

Only Paramount Chief Kyungu and some Democratic Progressive Party members are in support to relocate refugees to Karonga

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative Monique Ekoko said 27 000 refugees will be transferred from Dzaleka to Katili.

Kyungu asked UNHCR to ensure that communities in Karonga are given job opportunities during the construction of the refugee camp.

Katili lies north west of Karonga, about 15 kilometres away from the boma.

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