Recent fighting between government forces and opposition RENAMO fighters in Mozambique is increasing the influx of asylum seekers into Malawi. More than 150 Mozambicans have entered Malawi in recent days as the conflict over the disputed election intensifies. But their fate is in limbo as the Malawi government plans to close down the refugee camp where 140 others are living.
The Mozambicans started entering Malawi’s border district of Mwanza in early July, when the country hosted about 775 refugees after RENAMO fighters carried out two attacks in Tete province.
The new asylum seekers are from Zobue province, believed to be a stronghold of the opposition RENAMO party.
The refugees have erected makeshift shelters at Kapise II village, half a kilometer from Mozambique.
Patrick Thukuta is responsible for the welfare of the asylum seekers at Kapise. He told VOA that more and more refugees, especially from Kondez and Ndande areas, enter Malawi almost daily.
He said on Thursday afternoon they received 34 people, and Saturday morning they received three families.
The refugees say the situation at Kapise II is no better than where they came from. Grace Shadreck, a mother of three, said the refugees lack almost everything.
She said there is no health facility around, and they don’t have money to buy soap. They don't have food, or even salt or utensils to use.
Shadreck is worried about how they will survive without tents during the rainy season which starts next month.
She appealed to government authorities to relocate them to the designated Luwani Refugee camp where 140 refugees are being kept. But officials said they would no longer accept new refugees at the camp because of funding problems. Just last week 30 refugees from Kapise II were denied access to the camp.
“It was a position under UNHCR and Government of Malawi through Home Affairs Ministry that this new bunch cannot go to Luwani camp because at the moment that camp is being closed down. So we turned them back,” said Gift Lapozo, District Commissioner for Mwanza.
Lapozo said the fate of current camp refugees is uncertain.
“We have not yet come up with a final position because this is something that the UNHCR and Ministry of Home Affairs are trying to work together with ourselves as the local authority," Lapozo said.
Leader of the refugees at the Luwani camp, Verniz Jose Joao, told VOA that just like Kapise II the refugees are lacking food and facing sanitation issues from a shortage of proper toilets.
The Luwani camp had previously hosted Mozambicans who fled their country's 16-year civil war between 1977 and 1992.