Burundian refugee and chief executive officer (CEO) of Inua Consulting, Innocent Magambi, has asked the Malawi Government to consider reviewing its 1989 Refugee Legislation, arguing the existing laws are too oppressive and retrogressive.
Magambi argues that the current refugee laws do not conform to the United Nations (UN) Convention on Human Rights since they were drafted when the influx of displaced people from Mozambique meant that an estimated 14 percent of people in Malawi where refugees.
The existing laws restrict refugees’ freedom of movement, employment, education, healthcare, integration and citizenship, among others.
He has made the sentiments in the article he calls ‘My Story’ in which he gives a picture of his journey from Burundi to Dzaleka Refugee Camp.
The 41-year-old Magambi was born in a refugee settlement in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from Burundian parents.
He says he was 13 when Burundi held its first democratic elections and a former refugee from his tribe was voted into power.
“I came to Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi in 2003, I was 23 years old. Living amongst thousands of people all in desperate need for a chance to live a ‘normal life’ outside of the camp’s confines, I was beyond blessed to meet a team from Capital City Baptist Church. They kept in touch with me and later sponsored me to go to Assemblies of God School of Theology in Lilongwe,” narrates Magambi in his story.
In his story, Magambi says he came to Malawi with two objectives: to escape forced enrolment in a rebel army and to find a place I could call home.
He says he never knew what God had in store for him such as becoming the Founder and Executive Director of a successful charity that employs dozens of Malawians, publishing an autobiography, meeting President Obama, becoming the CEO of Inua Consulting.
“Malawi is at a turning point, I believe, for the better. We have learnt how to positively exercise the democratic right to influence political action. My being exposed to the teaching and preaching of many Christian leaders, including the now Head of State, President Lazarus Chakwera, opened my horizons; hence, I went to on to found There is Hope, a charity that would support both refugees and Malawians in need,” he writes.
Magambi claims that many Malawians are confidently testifying that refugees are not a threat but simply a part of society: they have become spouses and friends, employers and teachers, barbers and business partners.
He therefore laments that the Malawi Government has not revised its refugee policies since 1989 although there have been positive benefits accruing from the refugees over the decades.
He says there is enough development potential in Malawi for the two communities to thrive together, building on each other’s strengths.
Magambi emphasizes that while the Malawi Government is revising bad laws to unlock the development of its people, may they remember refugees who have been living among them for many years.
“The current refugee population in Malawi stands at around 0.2 percent of the total number of people living here. Whereas over the years, refugee laws have not been consistently enforced, the current government is now implementing a hardline re-encampment instead of adopting the already revised refugee laws,” reads the article in part.
Magambi adds that as the law stands, Claudine, a 19-year-old Dzaleka-born who wants to go to College of Medicine in Lilongwe, will be required to get a ‘refugee conventional passport’ from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services before he can apply for a student visa and pay international student fees, which are MK 6,800,000 against MK 550,000 for Malawians.
But in an exclusive interview with CNN last week, President Chakwera said his government is simply enforcing the law.
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