Kapise, Malawi 21 April 2016 – This morning, UNHCR started the transfer of nearly 10,000 Mozambicans asylum-seekers from Kapise village located in the south eastern Mwanza district of Malawi. The first convoy transporting 103 people departed Kapise on the 72 km journey to Luwani refugee camp located in Neno district where they will join the group of refugees who have been there since last week.
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.
On arrival in Luwani 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.
Last month, the Government of Malawi authorised UNHCR to relocate the Mozambican asylum-seekers to a former camp at Luwani that has been re-opened for this purpose. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has partnered with the UN Refugee Agency to provide logistical support.
Since last December, Malawi has seen an increase in new arrivals from Mozambique, peaking at more than 250 people per day in early March. The numbers have since decreased significantly, but those who have managed to cross recently have informed UNHCR that they are turning to alternate routes due to increased military presence along the border. UNHCR calls upon all actors to respect the right to seek asylum.
“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.
A refugee mother named Sarah* who was part of the convoy told UNHCR that she is looking forward to arriving in Luwani where the conditions and services will be better for her and her three young children. Sarah also added that she is also looking forward to the safety that she hopes the camp will offer.
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. Asylum-seekers will have better facilities and services there, 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.
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