United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malawi today begun relocating asylum seekers at Kapisi Transit Camp in Mwanza to Luwani Camp in Neno amidst reluctance by over 30 percent of the refugees.
Speaking in an interview upon arrival of the first group relocated to Luwani, UNHCR’s senior emergency coordinator Fadela Novak-Irons said of the 10 000 plus asylum seekers at Kapisi, only 70 percent are willing to relocate.
“We did a snap survey and established that about 30 percent of the population at Kapisi are unwilling to relocate because of misconceptions.
“Many do not like the high temperatures in the area and they also believe in that such temperatures lead to cholera outbreak. They are connecting this to history of the place because when we had refugees at the camp in the 90s, there was a serious cholera outbreak,” she said.
Novak-Irons added that most refugees think Luwani has no land for farming. She said many of the asylum seekers have gardens just after the boarder and feel relocating will cost them the land.
“This survey was important. We are looking for ways to clear the misconceptions and ensure they all move to Luwani because the place is spacious and conducive, “she said.
Currently, Luwani has 100 tents and the first group that relocated from Kapisi had 103 individuals. They join 82 others relocated from Nsanje recently.
During the visit to Kapisi ahead of the relocation, Nation Online established that some families had left the camp earlier in the morning back to Mozambique. Ten families were reported to have left the place in the wee hours of today.
Both Novak-Irons and chief Kapisi confirmed the development, but said those people are from areas that have not been affected by the Renamo militants who have been fighting the ruling Frelimo.
Since December 2015, Malawi has seen an increase in new arrivals from Mozambique, peaking at more than 250 people per day in early March, according to UNHCR.
Luwani camp previously hosted Mozambican refugees during the 1977-1992 civil war and was finally closed in 2007. It has more than 160 hectares of land.
It is envisaged that asylum-seekers will have better facilities and services at Luwani Camp, including health, education, water, protection and will be involved in self-reliance activities like agriculture.
UNHCR, together with various partners, including UNICEF, WFP, IOM, UN Women, MSF, Plan International, Acción Contra el Hambre-Spain, Plan International, Oxfam, World Vision, Norwegian Church Aid, and Participatory Rural Development Organisation (PRDO) are providing essential services in Kapise, including water and sanitation, food, shelter and health care, and psycho-social support. This assistance by UNHCR and partners will continue in Luwani.
Malawi already hosts some 25 000 refugees and asylum-seekers mostly from the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa in Dzaleka camp located some 35kms from Lilongwe. This camp is already stretched to capacity, with severely limited resources to assist refugees.