MANA. Lilongwe, May 26, 2017: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has bemoaned lack of progress in handling the backlog of 20,000 asylum seekers to be integrated as refugees in the country.
UNCHR Resident Representative to Malawi, Monique Ekoko made the observation Thursday in Lilongwe during the presentation of Household Socio Economic Livelihood Assessment (HSELA- 2017) workshop.
She said the backlog has come about due to lack of capacity and financial resources that the government provides in scrutinizing asylum seekers.
Ekoko explained that UNHCR has provided some technical assistance to government in order to address some of the challenges being faced in dealing with the current issues at hand.
She said there are over 20,000 asylum seekers in the country, who need to be scrutinized to attain the refugee status in the country.
“There are currently over 27,000 asylum seekers, mainly from Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, and Somalia at Dzaleka refugee camp in Dowa, and over 3,200 Mozambicans at Luwani refugee camp in Neno,” Ekoko said.
The UNHCR Resident Representative said the legal framework governing the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in the country, is under review.
“We hope to make positive amendments that will be in the interest of the refugees, especially as concerns their self-reliance and freedom of movement,” she disclosed.
The Senior Administrative Officer in the office of the Commissioner for Refugees in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Samuel Malowa, in his response, admitted that his office has a backlog of applications due to shortage of staff.
“We only have four officers, who are handling the scrutinizing process of granting asylum seekers, refugee status. The ideal number for our office to effectively and efficient process the applications, is eight officers.” he informed workshop participants.
Malowa said the office is trying its best to process the new applications, but it always has new arrivals in the country, thereby contributing to such backlog of applications.
He said, “we conduct interviews for applicants for the refugee status, during which they justify their need for an international protection in the country.”
He said so far the country has granted over 7,000 asylum seekers a refugee status, and that some of them have graduated, and left for other countries.
“We are indeed concerned with the current situation of unprocessed applications within our offices. However, it is pleasing to note, that we are trying our best within our means,” Malowa said.
Last year the country recorded over 6,000 new asylum seekers from within the region, and other countries in the horn of Africa.