Thousands of refugees who had been integrated into the Malawian society have been forced to return to the country’s oldest refugee camp, Dzaleka, as the cost of living and anti-refugee sentiment continue to rise.
Malawi’s first refugee camp, Dzaleka, is about 25 miles north of the country’s capital, Lilongwe. It was built 25 years ago to facilitate people fleeing from genocide and wars in Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The refugee camp initially hosted around 10,000 and 14,000 refugees, but Dzaleka now is home to more than 48,000 people from east and southern African countries, four times higher than its original capacity.
It has been reported that hundreds continue arriving each month. The UN refugee agency UNHCR noted that no less than 181 babies were born in the facility in August.
Swelling the numbers are the Malawian government’s recent order that force an estimated number of 2,000 refugees who have left Dzaleka for years to return to the camp as they are seen as a threat to the societal integrity of the country.
Additionally, the deteriorating situation in neighbouring Mozambique also contributes to the influx of refugees in Dzaleka.
In April, the Malawian Ministry of homeland security issued a 14-day deadline for the refugees to return to Dzaleka or face sanctions. Many refugees protested the order as they have married into the local population and have businesses and jobs. The country’s recent dramatic price increases for fuel, cooking oil, and other foodstuffs further worsen the situation.