Malawi is being flooded by illegal immigrants mostly from Asia and some African countries a situation worsened by corrupt practices among some officers at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services.
Last year alone, according to a source at Immigration, the department registered around 4 000 foreigners who came from China, Pakistan and India as visitors, but only about 400 exited the country.
The department’s spokesperson Joseph Chauwa, while not confirming or dismissing the figures in an interview, admitted having some officers that frustrate efforts to deal with illegal immigrants.
Chauwa said the department conducts routine operations to arrest and deport illegal immigrants, but the corrupt tendencies among some officers, coupled by shortage of resources such as motor vehicles, frustrate their efforts.
He said the department takes to task hosts of visitors that overstay, but sometimes others are not cooperative.
The source said the foreigners that come as visitors with limited stay in Malawi come to work for some companies owned by Pakistanis, Chinese or Indian nationals and are issued with temporary work permits that are hardly renewed.
The Immigration source disclosed that it is a planned scheme by some foreign nationals that own companies in Malawi to bring in their countrymen to work for them, even for jobs that require no expertise.
“Malawi is too soft on foreigners and it is high time we did something about it. Authorities know where these illegal immigrants can be traced and companies they work for, but corruption is destroying this country,” the source lamented.
He gave an example of around 200 arrests the Department of Immigration has made from January to March this year, challenging that half of that number may have already made it back into the society.
“The problem we have in Malawi is that we also entertain ‘visa on arrival’ application.
“In other countries, one cannot leave an airport in their country before a visa of a country where they are going to is issued,” explained the source.
The source said most foreigners that come with an intention to stay, apply for visitor’s permit which lasts for 30 days, and they extend it for 60 days, as the law provides, and at the expiry of 90 days, they would then apply for temporary resident permit, which is for six months, and when those six months expire, they start hiding and bribing Immigration officials when caught.
Chauwa said some hosts with legal status to stay in Malawi, play a big role in helping the illegal immigrants to hide.
The Department of Immigrations spokesperson said they have an anti-corruption policy which they use to educate their officers about the dangers of corruption, adding that officers that are caught are dealt with accordingly.
Chauwa, however, said the department also faces challenge of mobility as the whole department has less than 10 motor vehicles.