AFRICA/MALAWI - After suspicion of human trafficking: Five seriously injured in explosion in Dzaleka refugee camp

Friday, 16 December 2022 refugees   human trafficking  

Lilongwe (Agenzia Fides) - On the evening of December 14, five refugees were injured when a hand grenade exploded in the main market of the Dzaleka reception center in central Malawi, about 30 km from the capital Lilongwe. The police meanwhile arrested a Rwandan refugee who is suspected of having detonated the explosive device on purpose.
The three seriously injured, including a leader of the Burundian refugees, are being treated at nearby Dowa District Hospital.
The Dzaleka refugee camp, which opened in 1994, was originally intended to accommodate around 12,000 refugees. Today it accommodates more than 50,000 people, most of them from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the rest from Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Somalia.
Meanwhile, the facility had recently faced allegations of human trafficking and child abuse after Malawian police, in cooperation with the UN agencies that run the camp, launched an investigation and mixed liaisons with the refugees to help the camp identify human traffickers. In this context, at least 90 victims had filed a complaint.
Most of the victims who have since found help are Ethiopian men between the ages of 18 and 30. There are also women and girls between the ages of 12 and 24 from Ethiopia, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Women and girls are sexually exploited in Dzaleka camp itself or elsewhere in Malawi, or taken to other countries in southern Africa for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Traffickers recruited children for farm and domestic work. Male refugees were forced to do forced labor inside the camp or on farms in Malawi and other countries in the region.
The facility is also used by traffickers as a temporary stopover and transit point for victims recruited from their home country under false pretenses and crossing the border into Malawi to enter the camp.
The network of traffickers (originally from Malawi, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) offers job opportunities in South Africa to victims in Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. Once at the camp, they find that they have indebted themselves to the traffickers for the "journey" and are then forced either to work at the facility or taken to other countries in the region to be exploited.
It is not known whether the attack last Wednesday, December 14th, was related to human trafficking or the vulnerability of the heavily overcrowded facility. Malawian authorities said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has pledged $58 million to rebuild the abandoned Luwani refugee camp, which has housed more than 300,000 Mozambican refugees, in an effort to ease congestion in Dzaleka who fled the 1977-1992 civil war. Luwani closed in 2007 and reopened in 2016 to accommodate around 12,000 Mozambicans fleeing new conflicts in their homeland. After the Mozambicans were able to return to their homeland, the camp was closed again in 2019. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 16/12/2022)