Xenophobic attacks on refugees in MalawiBy REX CHIKOKO in Blantyre | Thursday, May 3 2012 at 19:07
Angry businesspeople in Dowa, about 100km north of Lilongwe city, on Wednesday chased foreigners who were doing business around Dzaleka refuguee camp back into the camp.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said six Malawians had been arrested for the attacks and looting of merchandise belonging to the refugees.
UNHCR assistant protection officer Kelvin Sentala said some Malawians accused the refugees, most of them from Burundi, Rwanda and DR Congo, of monopolising businesses that should be done by locals.
"The businesspeople from the area surrounding the refugee camp are accusing the refugees of operating without permits and monopolising their businesses,” Mr Sentala said.
People in the area expressed their displeasure with the refugees to the District Commissioner (DC) for Dowa and gave an ultimatum that the refugees be removed.
They threatened to evict them if they were not removed.
But DC pleaded with the locals not to refrain from plan, saying that the matter would be resolved.
“We were surprised to hear that they decided to take the law into their hands by looting the refugees' shops, and that some young people took advantage of the situation and stole assorted items from the shops,” an official at the DC's office lamented.
Apart from the arrested six, no casualties have been reported.
Malawi hosts a number of refugees despite some of their countries of origin attaining peace.
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