The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has today started the transfer of nearly 10 000 Mozambicans asylum-seekers from Kapise village in Mwanza to Luwani refugee camp in Neno.
Last month the Government of Malawi authorised NHCR to relocate the Mozambican asylum-seekers Luwani camp. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has partnered with the UN Refugee Agency to provide logistical support.
In a statement, UNHCR Representative to Malawi, Monique Ekoko, says the first convoy transporting 103 asylum seekers departed Kapise on the 72 kilometre journey to Luwani refugee camp this morning.
“Heavy rains in recent weeks had previously made the roads impassable, however, with dryer weather, UNHCR, together with other partners, was able to finally begin the transfer today. Because of the road conditions, three heavy duty 4 x4 trucks were retrofitted with benches to carry the passengers. Another two trucks are being used to transport belongings,” said Ekoko.
On arrival at Luwani camp, Ekoko says the refugees will stay at a transit centre until they are provided with a plot of land and shelter materials to build their own houses.
“As UNHCR, this relocation is a momentous occasion for the asylum-seekers who are moving to a place where we can provide better protection and assistance. We thank the Government and people of Malawi for the good gesture to re-open Luwani to accommodate these Mozambicans,” said Ms Monique Ekoko.
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.