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Mozambican Refugees Shun Camp in Malawi


Hundreds of Mozambicans have fled into Malawi because of fighting between government forces and the opposition party RENAMO. Many of the displaced people are resisting being relocated to a refugee camp.

The Mozambicans started entering Malawi in early July after RENAMO fighters carried out two attacks in Tete province.

RENAMO disputes the result of last year's elections and wants autonomy in northern Mozambique, where it has the most support.

The refugees are settling at Kapise II village in Malawi’s southern district of Mwanza.

Headman William Michiwe told VOA his village is hosting 775 Mozambicans so far.

"They are men, women and children. But they are living in appalling conditions, mainly because of lack of food and other basic necessities of their day-to-day life,” he said.

Malawi's government has started to move the Mozambicans to a designated refugee camp in the neighboring district of Neno.

Gift Lapozo is the District Commissioner for Mwanza, said international bodies are helping out.

“Over 119 of them [registered refugees] were relocated to Luwani camp where they are properly been hosted by the government of Malawi with support from the UNHCR and the World Food Program,” said Lapozo.

But authorities say many of the Mozambicans are shunning relocation. Some flee into the bush if they see a Malawi government vehicle, while others conceal their identity.

Some people staying in makeshift shelters at Kapise II this week denied being Mozambicans. They told VOA they were only visiting displaced Mozambican friends who at the time were away “to do some piece work.”

Lapozo thinks those shunning the refugee camp don’t want any form of confinement.

“I perceive that it’s like people who are used to live as a free spirits and when you ask them to take them into a camp situation they will always resist that. To them they feel that they are enclosed,” said Lapozo.

One villager told VOA the refugees simply don't want to stay too far from the homes they left in Mozambique.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security Beston Chisamale told local radio this week that resistance aside, the relocation effort is continuing.

“What we have done as government is to tell them that they will be moved to a new site. So the ones that are indicating that they are ready to move, are the ones we are moving out,” said Chisamale.

The Luwani camp previously hosted Mozambicans who fled their country's 16-year civil war between 1977 and 1992.