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Cablegate: Malawi - Unhcr Contingency Plan for Zimbabwe Refugees

VZCZCXRO7153
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHLG #0218 1051416
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141416Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY LILONGWE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5189
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS LILONGWE 000218

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/S - E. PELLETREAU
DEPT ALSO FOR PRM - M. LANGE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF KDEM ZI MI
SUBJECT: MALAWI - UNHCR CONTINGENCY PLAN FOR ZIMBABWE REFUGEES


1. (U) Summary: UNHCR Malawi told emboff that they have contingency
plans in place in the event that sustained post-election violence
forces Zimbabwean refugees into Malawi. Due to close historic and
family ties, Zimbabwean migrants have so far blended into Malawian
society and few have shown up at the refugee camp. In the event of
a large influx of refugees, UNHCR and the government of Malawi will
reopen the recently-closed Luwani Refugee Camp in southern Malawi
which still has shelters, schools, and medical clinics in place.
While the government of Malawi remains concerned about foreigners
taking jobs away from locals, some have expressed new concerns that
without a national identification system, Zimbabweans in Malawi
could register for next year's elections in Malawi. End Summary

Contingency Plan in Place for Zimbabwean Refugees
--------------------------- ---------------------

2. (U) UNHCR told emboff that contingency plans are in place in the
event that sustained post-election violence sends Zimbabwean
refugees into Malawi. With strong ties stretching back to the
colonial era, some estimate there could be three million Zimbabweans
with ancestry from Malawi. Many Zimbabweans have already come to
Malawi, and assisted by friends or distant relatives have
successfully blended into Malawian society. Only a few families
have actually shown up at the refugee camp seeking refuge.

3. (U) In the event of a large influx of refugees, UNHCR said the
government of Malawi will be forced to reopen the Luwani refugee
camp. The Dzaleka camp in central Malawi only has capacity for
approximately 1500 more refugees but UNHCR said during the height of
the Mozambican war, close to 200,000 refugees were in Luwani.
Luwani was closed last year in an effort to consolidate Malawi's
refugee population of just over 9000 in one place. While Luwani
still has shelters, schools, and medical facilities, the GOM has
begun transforming the camp into a prison facility. In addition to
identifying space and shelter, UNHCR is working with the World Food
Program to line up additional food sources and has begun to procure
additional medical supplies as a precaution.

Concerns about Zims Being Used for Election Fraud
--------------------------- ---------------------

4. (U) While the government of Malawi continues to have concerns
about foreigners taking jobs from locals, some are expressing new
concerns that the lack of a national identity system in Malawi could
allow migrants from Zimbabwe to register to vote in the 2009
presidential elections. It is difficult to determine the magnitude
and distribution of Zimbabwean migrants in Malawi, but opposition
leaders have already advised the Malawi Electoral Commission that it
needs to be able to account for the risk.

5. (SBU) Comment: The more prosperous economies of South Africa and
Botswana may be more appealing, but with strong ties, porous
borders, and an excellent reputation as a host of refugees, Malawi
could be an appealing destination if prolonged violence becomes an
issue in Zimbabwe. Malawians would be more likely to tolerate
refugees from Zimbabwe than other nationals, such as Somali and
Congolese, who are currently crossing multiple borders to claim
asylum in Malawi. The likelihood of Zimbabweans being used to vote
for candidates in an election seems unlikely at this point and is
just one of many issues the opposition has raised to the electoral
commission to protest the lack of consultation by government in the
commission's composition.

EASTHAM

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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