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UN agency rushes to help refugees in Malawi after Government closes camp

UN agency rushes to help refugees in Malawi after Government closes camp

Responding to Malawi’s closure of a refugee camp housing thousands of people, a United Nations agency is shoring up other facilities to shelter them.

“Our staff are rushing to install additional facilities for 3,000 refugees at Dzaleka refugee camp following a government order to close the only other refugee camp in the country,” Jennifer Pagonis, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Geneva.

The Government said its decision was prompted by security concerns about the presence of refugees from the Horn of Africa who it says are involved with human traffickers. “The Government believes placing all asylum seekers in Dzaleka, further from the border, will reduce the number using Malawi purely as a transit route for heading toward South Africa,” Ms. Pagonis said.

The transfer of the 3,000 refugees the Luwani camp will require additional school and medical facilities at Dzaleka, she added. Initially refugees will be housed in temporary structures and tents before they erect homes. In the meantime, the agency has started stockpiling wooden poles and grass, which are building materials for traditional houses.

“Unlike those asylum seekers who quickly transit through Malawi with the apparent services of traffickers – the group who triggered the Government’s closure of Luwani – most of the refugees to be relocated have been long-term residents of the camp,” said Ms. Pagonis. “Some had hoped to become self-sufficient through farming at Luwani but there is little land available at Dzaleka so they will remain dependent on aid.”