A Belgian national of Rwandese descent, Elie Umukunzi, has suggested that the Malawi Government, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other security agencies should conduct an audit and vetting of refugees and asylum-seekers residing outside Dzaleka Refugee Camp.
Umukunzi says such an exercise could help the government address security concerns allegedly being perpetrated by the refuge seekers.
The government has been citing security concerns as one of the factors that drove the government to relocate the refugees and asylum seekers to the camp.
But Umukunzi believes this can easily be dealt with if the government, UNHCR and other stakeholders could institute a commission to vet the refugees and asylum seekers.
He has also proposed the introduction of temporary identification documents that allow businesspeople to operate subject to a six-month or yearly renewal.
“A renewal that will depend on the proof of payment of (a certain amount of) taxes: through VAT [value added tax], income tax, withholding tax or PAYE and other government imposed criteria. In case that a refugee or an asylum-seeker is employed, a minimum monthly PAYE should be paid of K50,000 (at current rate, this means that the PAYE paid for this refugee or asylum seeker will be equivalent to the minimum wage of any worker and as such a working refugee or asylum-seeker will create extra employment for a Malawian),” says Umukunzi in his seven-paged document.
Umukunzi has been in Malawi since January 2019. He holds a business residence permit and he is a shareholder and general manager of the registered companies USER Fashion and USER Enterprise.
He is also a human rights activist and a Pan-Africanist.
Umukunzi argues that even though the return to the refugee camp will surely lead to newcomers in their old business premises, this will not cover for the societal and tax opportunity costs of losing these taxpayers and society members.
He adds that there will not be an economic compensation of more than 50 percent if refugees and asylum seekers are forced into the camp.
“The societal and humanitarian negative consequences, for the refugees but also the community they are currently living in and contributing to, would be beyond measure. It is therefore a misunderstanding that refugees take opportunities from the natives: refugees made the cake bigger, and their expenditures are in Malawi (unlike the many diaspora communities in Malawi that tend to externalize financial resources from Malawi to their home countries) so these factually help the economy and development,” says Umukunzi.
He pledges that should the Malawi Government consider reintegrating them, the refugees and asylum seekers will finance the construction and management of at least one mobile hospital in order to provide medical assistance to remote areas, one school, other humanitarian actions that will positively impact the Malawian societal fabric and will also give civic education.
“The capacity of Dzaleka Refugee Camp shall be raised and to help in this all refugees and asylum-seekers who are self-employed or employed will within a period of two years build proper accommodation in the designated camp area. The government and UNHCR will facilitate in this with leases of plots or other measures deemed necessary by the government,” says Umukunzi.
Recently, the Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) executive director, Sylvester Namiwa, asked the National Assembly to review to review the 1989 Refugees Act, which he said is very archaic.
Namiwa urged the MPs to consider drafting laws to allow the integration of the refugees and asylum seekers in Malawi, including the improvement of their welfare at the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa district.
He reiterated that refugees and asylum seekers came to Malawi in search of peace, which they could not find in their own native countries, but Malawi.
“Additionally, by virtue of being human beings, the refugees and asylum seekers, have basic rights, and that ought to be respected and promoted at all times. The members of the general public, therefore, should further be advised that as a law-abiding institution, CDEDI cannot be seen to be flouting the law, by commenting on issues that have been presented before the court, in as far as the issue of moving the refugees and asylum seekers to Dzaleka Refugee Camp, as directed by the Homeland Security Ministry a few months ago, is concerned,” he adds.
Namiwa has since challenged Malawians to desist from making pronouncements, and displaying some conduct that would incite hatred and anger towards some sectors of the society, including the refugees and asylum seekers, to start living in fear.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :