A new president took office in Malawi following a second round of elections in 2020, after the courts nullified the contested 2019 election results. The country’s economy was negatively impacted in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted socioeconomic activity for both nationals and people of concern to UNHCR. In addition to the pandemic-related challenges, Malawi also faces recurring floods and droughts, which impact food security.
Refugees and asylum-seekers are mainly hosted in the Dzaleka refugee camp, close to the capital city of Lilongwe. The Government of Malawi has an encampment policy which restricts refugees from certain rights such as access to tertiary education and formal employment. The Dzaleka refugee camp accommodates over 44,000 people of concern as of November 2020. Originally established to host 10,000 individuals, the camp is therefore congested and overcrowded. This congestion impacts the water and sanitation, general well-being and livelihoods opportunities for the refugees in the camp. The Government has provided additional land space (adjacent to the existing camp) called Katubza and Dzaleka Hills ,aimed at reducing congestion. Malawi continues to receive asylum-seekers, but at a reduced rate of less than 100 per month since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, notably due to restrictions on crossing international borders.
The Government of Malawi has expressed its strong commitment to rolling out the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework. The President has announced that a functional review of the refugee response will be conducted in 2021, along the development of a national migration policy.
In 2021, UNHCR will focus on:
- Strengthening the operational response to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 among people of concern.
- Advocating and providing technical support to the Government of Malawi in implementing the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.
- Advocating for the adoption of prima facie refugee status for Congolese asylum-seekers from North and South Kivu, and from Katanga region.
- Advocating for the inclusion of refugees in the national health and education sectors.
- Decongesting the Dzaleka refugee camp by relocating refugees to the newly developed Katubza and Dzaleka Hills sites.
- Expanding livelihood activities aimed at empowering people of concern and achieving self-reliance.