Demonstrations against Lilongwe District Council over refugees relocation postponed

Demonstrations forcing Lilongwe District Council to remove Burundian and Rwandan refugees that returned to the streets to illegally engage in businesses, were postponed to allow for further dialogue on the matter.

The demonstrations by Small Scale Business Operators Association of Malawi were scheduled for Thursday at Lilongwe District Council’s office premises.

However, District Commissioner Lawford Palani, in a letter dated 8th May 2024, says the demonstrations were postponed, citing, among others, further discussions with the Ministry of Homeland Security “in order to resolve the issues”.

The discussions will, therefore, be held next week, according to the letter, which is copied to secretaries for Homeland Security and Local Government, Unity and Culture, among other stakeholders.

Joseph Mkwanganya, Chairperson for small scale business operators in the central region, also confirmed the postponement, stressing that the Ministry of Homeland Security “is a key stakeholder in the matter”.

Burundian and Rwandan refugees and asylum seekers—accused of violating refugee laws by escaping from their designated Dzaleka Refugee camp and settling and trading in local communities—were dragged back to the camp throughout 2023 in a highly criticized operation, overseen by Ministry of Homeland Security and other government agencies.

Some refugees and asylum seekers had returned, more especially to Lilongwe, in the aftermath or even during the relocation exercise. This prompted Lilongwe District Council to issue a fresh notice, warning that it would relocate the refugees back to Dzaleka.

But the council is delaying to implement the fresh notice, promoting small scale business operators to decide to demonstrate against it, according to Mkwanganya.

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