Early this morning, I woke up to a text message on Whatsapp. It was a photo with three crying emojis, a bunch of flowers with an inscription stating: R.I.P IN PEACE. The print has five people in it—two beautiful women; one looks in her early or late 50’s, and the other one in her late 20’s or early 30’s—one young man (seemingly in his late 20’s or early 30’s). The last two humans in the photo are small kids under the age of 5.
A few months ago, I heard rumors of refugee families secretly organizing to leave Malawi to seek protection in France. Have they obtained official travel documents? How, and How credible? I wanted to ask my friends on the other end of the line. But then, from a lived experience, I recollected: refugees do not carry with them identifying documents, mainly when there are fleeing in search of protection—the HOW this particular family and their counterparts prepared for their journey was none of my goddam business.
I have almost known this particular family for nearly 20 years. They were my closest neighbor in Lukole refugee camps in Tanzania before the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)—invoked cessation clause against Rwandan nationals living in Tanzania in 2002, a policy firmly pushed by the government of Tanzania. My memory reminds me, this family was among the first people to leave the Camp for Kenya. One night I played with the young man’s brother. The following day he (and his family) was gone. This incident prompted many other Rwandan refugees to pack up for Kenya. My uncle was one of them.
I remember the pressure among the Rwandan refugee population in Tanzania. It was intense. Everybody wanted to leave, but only those with the means (financial resources) to carry them to the next border-left first. The current situation and refugee conditions in Malawi should exactly be conceptualized in Tanzania’s experience to be understood. REFUGEES ARE NOT WELCOME HERE. REFUGEES ARE NOT WELCOME ANYWHERE.
The neocolonial government of #Malawi AND the #UNHCR should be held responsible for the lives of refugees who died in a shipwreck in the Indian Ocean earlier this week. Protesting the government of Malawi’s encampment policy, the victims sailed from Comoros to Mayotte searching for refugee protection.
Has any press in Malawian reported this tragic incident?