Authorities in Malawi have arrested more than 400 refugees and asylum-seekers on Thursday, including 100 children, in the capital, Lilongwe.
The crackdown came about two months after the government issued an ultimatum for people to return to Dzaleka, an overcrowded camp north of the city.
“This operation is specifically targeting refugees and asylum seekers and it’s also trying to flush out illegal immigrants. So, those foreigners that are here with valid documentation, with the proper authorization, they should not have any cause for worry”, promised Patrick Botha, Malawi Ministry of Homeland Security Spokesperson.
Malawi is home to almost 70,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, according to the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR.
Most live in Dzaleka, a refugee camp set up in 1994 to accommodate about 12,000 people but currently hosting more than 56,000 refugees.
“By close of business yesterday, we had around 400 that were picked. They are in transit because they have to be sieved because some might have proper documentation, some might have documents validating them as refugees or asylum seekers. But there could also be some that don’t have any documentation at all”, said the ministry spokesperson.
Most refugees and asylum-seekers in Malawi come from the conflict-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as Rwanda and Burundi.