50 Malawians Rot in Zim Prisons
19 September 2023
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Over 50 Malawian citizens have found themselves detained in Zimbabwean prisons for over three months now as they await repatriation back to Malawi. Most were arrested while attempting to illegally enter neighbouring South Africa. Unlike other regional countries, Zimbabwe does not have dedicated detention facilities for undocumented immigrants. As such, those apprehended are currently being held alongside convicted criminals in prisons.

Officials from the Malawian Embassy in Zimbabwe have expressed concern over the prolonged detention. Deputy Ambassador Elias Mpaso explained that the Malawian government presently lacks the funds to facilitate the repatriation process. With new immigrants caught crossing borders on a daily basis, the financial burden has become too great for Malawi to handle alone. The deportees themselves must rely on family members back home to purchase tickets for their return, which slows things down drastically.

International organizations like the International Organization for Migration have been requested to assist. However, for the 50-plus still imprisoned, freedom seems a long way off without further help. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission has further criticized their incarceration as a human rights violation, arguing detainees should not be mixed with convicts.

Both governments are in a difficult position. While seeking to uphold border security and immigration laws, prolonged detention creates widespread welfare issues. An urgent humanitarian solution is needed to end this regrettable situation.