asylum seeker

A camp and a festival: Tumaini at Dzaleka.

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Went to the Tumaini Festival at Dzaleka Refugee Camp about an hour outside of Lilongwe in Dowa last Saturday. Organised by the Dzaleka Cultural Association (DCA), the event featured a variety of performances by Malawian artists and groups from the camp. We also got a tour of the camp itself, which is home to some 19,000 refugees and asylum seekers mainly from the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi but also from Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan and other countries. It’s the only refugee camp in Malawi and has been open for 20 years. Our Congolese guide explained that most nationalities have their own areas in the camp, but the common language is Swahili.

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At first look, the place doesn’t look much different from a poor settlement in Lilongwe. There is no visible fence, but residents are not supposed to leave without permission. Some do make their way to Lilongwe, but run the risk of being arrested if found by the police. According to UNHCR, “With the exception of Angola and South Africa, countries in the [Southern Africa] subregion hosting a significant number of refugees maintain encampment policies that restrict the freedom of movement of refugees and asylum-seekers and impede their efforts to become self-reliant. Many of these camps have existed for decades, and the second and sometimes third generations of refugees living in them find it difficult to envision a better future.”

So at second look, not exactly your poor settlement in Lilongwe. In any case, here are my shots.

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