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Malawi ready to repatriate 3,000 refugees to Mozambique

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An agreement to repatriate the remaining 3,000 Mozambican refugees in the Luwani refugee camp in southern Malawi, who fled fighting in Tete province in 2015-16, has been delayed by a government reshuffle in Mozambique in December.

Sam Madula, principal secretary in Malawi’s Ministry of Home Affairs, told Zitamar News that a tripartite agreement between the two countries and the UNHCR was ready to be signed in Mozambique in December, but signing had to be postponed after Oldemiro Baloi was replaced as foreign minister by Jose Pacheco.

“Unfortunately, when we were about to start leaving for Mozambique, we were informed that there is a reshuffle in Mozambique; there is a new minister of foreign affairs who has said that must go through the agreement before he penned his signature,” Madula said.

Malawi reopened the camp – which had provided refuge to Mozambicans during the civil war in the 1980s and 90s – in March 2016, after more than 10,000 Mozambicans streamed across the border from Tete claiming to have been subject to violence by Mozambican government forces who accused them of harbouring Renamo fighters.

At the time, Malawi’s decision to open the camp was opposed by Mozambique, which – through the Mozambican High Commission in Malawi – made repeated attempts to persuade the refugees to return. There were also reports of the military in Mozambique forcibly preventing would-be refugees from crossing the border.

In December 2016, refugees at the camp told Zitamar they would not return to Mozambique until a definitive peace deal was signed between the government and Renamo. Negotiations between the two sides are still not complete, but a truce has held since the start of 2017. An amendment to the constitution on decentralisation, agreed by both sides, is now before parliament, and an agreement on military issues is pending, after which a definitive peace deal should be signed..

Ready to sign

UNHCR officials in Malawi say 3,337 Mozambican refugees have confirmed they are willing to return home.

“Once the agreement is made, all the asylum seekers are expected to return home because almost all the asylum seekers say they want to return home,” Rumbani Msiska, a UNHCR spokesperson in Malawi, told Zitamar.

Mozambique’s foreign ministry, MINEC, confirmed on Wednesday that the repatriation agreement is ready – with discussions underway to find a convenient date for all parties to sign it.

“The ministry has received the accord and has already done the necessary consultations and the three parties – namely, the UNHCR, our government, and Malawi’s – have reached consensus. All that’s lacking is the signature,” Belmiro Malate, director for Asia and Oceania at MINEC, told Zitamar.

Sam Madula at the Malawian ministry said the agreement “will empower the Malawi government and UNHCR to mobilize vehicles and money to repatriate the Mozambicans back to where they are going to stay.”

© 2018, Zitamar Ltd. Reproduction and dissemination prohibited without written permission.

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