Global perspective Human stories

UN refugee agency registers refugees, asylum seekers in Malawi

UN refugee agency registers refugees, asylum seekers in Malawi

The United Nations refugee agency is working with the Government of Malawi on a registration exercise aimed at improving the protection, management and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers in the country.

“This registration is a vital part of helping refugees,” said Matewos Beraki, acting head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Malawi. “It will provide us not just with numbers but with the details about the people in the camp that would help us to find permanent solutions to their situation.”

The joint exercise covers the Dzaleka camp, where almost all of the country’s thousands of refugees and asylum seekers live, said UNHCR, which is planning a subsequent registration of refugees who are allowed by the authorities to live in the nearby capital, Lilongwe, and elsewhere in Malawi.

“We are realizing during this registration that the existing data were poor – often incomplete and inaccurate,” said Andrew Hopkins, UNHCR registration officer for southern Africa, who directed the exercise. “The questions we are asking now should lead to profiling that allows us to understand each individual better and lead to solutions.”

Individuals needing special protection, such as unaccompanied children who had been staying with other families, have been identified. There have also been divorces, marriages and births that had gone unrecorded since the last time the data was checked in 2004.

The household profiling information being entered into the UNHCR database this time includes job skills, education, languages spoken and many details of local connections like work permits, marriage and bank accounts.

The agency said this could strengthen a case for local integration – an option currently unavailable for refugees in Malawi.

UNHCR is conducting similar registrations across southern Africa.