Dzaleka (Malawi): several arrests after a sit-in of refugees

Dzaleka (Malawi): several arrests after a sit-in of refugees

Several refugees from Dzaleka camp in Malawi protested against a distribution of tents on Tuesday. They believe that there has been poor management and distribution of these tents which will serve as temporary roofing in the rainy season which is coming in Malawi. The incident took place this Tuesday morning at the Dzaleka refugee camp. INFO SOS Médias Burundi

Agents from the UNHCR and other aid organizations were preparing to distribute the tents when the incident occurred.

A preliminary census had also taken place two months ago. But, on D-Day, refugees say that some of them did not end up on the lists, hence the fight.

“A dozen refugees did not see their names on the pre-established list. So their heads of household complained, showing that their houses are on the verge of collapse, which is true. The agents asked them to go to the central office. No response and suddenly they raised their voices. Others found the complaints justified, and the movement took on a different aspect”, explained Burundian refugees who witnessed the scene.

The police intervened, to no avail.

“When the police came, they didn’t even ask what was going on and brutalized everyone. Angry, the aggrieved refugees and everyone else threw stones at the police. They had to use tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd”, they say.

More than twenty refugees were arrested, accused of being promoters, which aggravated the situation.

“Suddenly, the other refugees came out of the camp and blocked the main road that passes through the camp. They also burned tires and anything that could catch fire. In fact here, everyone is unhappy, because a large number of people have been removed from the list of those who receive food, that is what has aggravated the situation”, underlines a community leader.

NGO vehicles were also damaged by stones thrown by angry refugees.

Refugees fear the worst

“This is the second time that refugees have shown their discontent in less than a month. Last time, a WFP vehicle was taken hostage. We fear that the camp may be closed or divided into two parts or that there will be severe punishments, for example the reduction of the food ration”, they regret.

However, they ask the UNHCR to note “the facts which result from its inaction and which testify to the total indignation” of the refugees.

Towards the evening a crisis management meeting was organized and all the leaders of the refugees and humanitarian agencies in the Dzaleka camp were invited.

The administration of the camp and the UNHCR are reassuring, saying that substantial measures must be taken either on the side of humanitarian agencies on the conditions of management of refugees or on the side of refugees to discourage any movement of disorder.

The Dzaleka camp is home to around 52,000 refugees, including 11,000 Burundians.

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