UNHCR assists Mozambican asylum seekers return home

Young asylum seekers in ecstatic mood

23rd November 2018:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Malawi during the month of October assisted 2,603 Mozambique asylum seekers who were being hosted at Luwani Refugee Camp with a voluntary return to their native country.

The voluntary repatriation occurred through spontaneous returns starting mid-September until the end of October when the last family left the camp.

The Mozambican asylum seekers had expressed interest to voluntarily return home more than a year ago after peace returned in the areas from where they fled. They later expressed a strong and urgent need to return home so that they can tend to their farms and plant before the rainy season which is expected to commence between November and December.

The delayed conclusion of the Tripartite Agreement between the governments of Mozambique and Malawi, and UNHCR, which has been pending since 2017, did not deter the determination of the Mozambicans to return home, a development which led to unsurmountable pressure on UNHCR to respect their inalienable rights to go back to their homeland as requested.

The returning asylum seekers were only being registered and assisted with transportation costs and a return package from UNHCR.

Mozambican asylum seekers fled into Malawi in early 2016 after a conflict erupted between the opposition Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) whose leader late Alfonso Dhlakama had threatened to seize power in six provinces of Manica, Sofala, Tete, Zambezia, Nampula and Niassa.

The asylum seekers entered Malawi through the bordering Kapise village which is located in the south eastern Mwanza district of Malawi while others entered through the lower shire district of Nsanje.

UNHCR Malawi then transferred the nearly 10,000 Mozambican asylum-seekers from Kapise village through a 72 kilometre journey to Luwani Refugee Camp located in Neno district which was earlier closed in 2007.

Luwani Camp previously hosted over one million Mozambican refugees who fled from their country’s 16 year civil war between 1977 and 1992 but was finally closed in 2007.

The camp has more than 160 hectares of land and asylum-seekers have facilities and services which include quality health, education, water, protection and some involve themselves in livelihoods activities such as agriculture and entrepreneurship.

Malawi currently hosts some 36, 205 refugees and asylum seekers who are being hosted at Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa district located some 50 kilometres from the administration capital of Lilongwe.

UNHCR has three major durable solutions for refugees and asylum seekers with the first and most desired one being voluntary repatriation to their home countries after peace has returned. The second durable solution is local integration where refugees and asylum seekers are locally integrated into host communities. Alternately, the third durable solution is resettlement to a third country.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The UN Refugee Agency as it is referred to is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees including a mandate to help stateless people.


A family prepares their last meal to take them back to Mozambique

Asylum seekers wait for their turn to receive return package