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Mozambican Refugees Fleeing to Malawi in Growing Numbers

  • Lisa Schlein

The U.N. refugee agency reports growing numbers of Mozambicans fleeing fighting between RENAMO rebels and government forces are seeking asylum in neighboring Malawi.

The U.N. refugee agency reports an almost unstoppable flow of refugees from Mozambique is crossing over the border into Malawi. The agency says its staff in the village of Kapise, about 100 kilometers south of the capital, Lilongwe, so far has registered nearly 1,300 new arrivals, with more than 900 people waiting to be recorded. It says another 400 people have arrived in 16 other villages.

UNHCR spokeswoman, Karin de Gruijl, said most of the refugees were women and children who came from Tete province in Mozambique. She said the refugees reported fighting between the opposition RENAMO and government forces, was making life impossible in their home villages.

“Refugee women told a UNHCR protection officer how their homes were burned down with one elderly lady left inside to die.They say that government forces are attacking villages believed to be harboring opposition forces and opposition members.We have not been able, however, to confirm the accuracy of these allegations.Some parents also stated that they have been separated from their children during flights,” she said.

De Gruijl said the UNHCR and government authorities in Malawi believed the fighting in Mozambique, which broke out in February last year, would be temporary. Therefore, she said agreements were made with the national authorities for local communities to host some 700 Mozambican refugees who had arrived in mid-2015.

“In the past few weeks, however, the situation has changed and more and more people are crossing into Malawi and we have reports that more people are coming…Malaria is a major concern as there are not enough mosquito nets and the number of patients seen daily has increased from 70 to 250 people,” said the spokeswoman.

De Gruijl said several U.N. aid agencies as well as the charity, Doctors Without Borders, were on hand to help the refugees with food, non-food items and medical relief.

She said the Government of Malawi was considering reopening Luwani refugee camp, which previously hosted refugees from Mozambique’s long-running civil war.That war, which was waged between 1977 and 1992, prompted more than one million Mozambicans to flee to Malawi.

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