A local organization that promotes good governance, transparency and human rights, Millennium Information and Resource Centre [MIRECE], has written a letter to the United Nations Country Director in Malawi seeking clarification of information for Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa district.
MIRECE has given 90 days for the UN authorities in Malawi to respond by providing details of the Camp’s existence in Dowa having observed that Malawi once hosted Mozambican refugees but their treatment was not as special as the one accorded to refugees and asylum seekers based at the Dzaleka Camp in Dowa.
The organization says the Dzaleka Camp is hosting over 40,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Burundi, Rwanda and Ethiopia, saying in their countries of origin there is peace yet repatriation has not been carried out while the UNHCR is constructing permanent houses for them.
According to MIRECE’s findings, the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi is a means of milking United Nations money claiming that most of the officials running the UNHCR office are from countries hosting the refugees and asylum seekers.
In a letter dated 20th March 2021 signed by its Director, Reverend Flywell Somanje, MIRECE is demanding clarification on whether the camp will go to Katiri, Karonga as previously planned or stay in Dowa district as people are wondering due to seeing permanent houses the UNHCR is building close to DAPP teachers Training College giving questions without answers to the surrounding communities.
MIRECE says the population of Dzaleka Refugee Camp is forcefully getting land from poor Malawians saying most of the land surrounding villages of the hosts communities are in the hands of the refugees with some of them reaching to a point of encroaching the Kongwe forest reserve.
The organization is asking the UNHCR to give clarification on how many people the Camp was made to accommodate looking at the number of refugees and asylum seekers who are coming to the Camp on daily basis saying this is pressurizing he hosts communities to scramble for natural resources.
The letter says Dowa district was beautiful and evergreen before the Refugee Camp, Dowa and Kongwe hills were covered with natural trees but today, Dowa is bare and the woodlot is no longer there saying this is because the UNHCR is not providing the refugees alternative means for cooking as the hosts communities were promised when the Camp was coming in the district.
In the letter, MIRECE says the woodlot which was there in the villages of Mengwe, Moyomsana, Mitembo, Kagwamtsabola, Lirambwe, Mtande, Gwang’wa and Msochi, just to mention a few, has gone, the population at the Camp have used it for timber, firewood and house poles.
…”This time they are targeting Kongwe Forest which was reserved many years ago by the first missionaries, the Dutch Reformed Church Mission [DRCM], meaning that within a year from now, Kongwe forest shall be a history…,’’ lamented Rev. Somanje.
In Education, MIRECE says although both the refugees and the hosts communities are allowed to attend the same school at Dzaleka Camp, after selection, student refugees that are bright, are given sponsorship by UNHCR to study in Europe and America leaving rejects to continue studying with Malawians there.
The letter is claiming that no Malawian has been given sponsorship to study in the overseas countries asking the UNHCR to clarify the benefits of the host students from the camp saying there’s no equal right on United Nations resources.
In business, MIRECE has observed that refugees are richer than the hosts communities, they have monopolized the local businesses expressing a concern that they get handouts from the UNHCR saying this is making them to be richer at the expense of the poor who are the hosts communities.
By Vincent Gunde