Big Issues, News

Malawi: Migrants detained en-route to South Africa, Inhumane treatment in Malawi’s prisons


Hundreds of illegal migrants, most of them from Ethiopia, remain detained in Malawi in appalling conditions after they failed to reach their destination, South Africa, a humanitarian organisation has said.

According to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the migrants were detained while on their way to South Africa in search of jobs.

Statistics from Malawi-based Child Rights, Advocacy and Paralegal Aid Centre (Crapac), show that large numbers of African migrants are passing through Malawi en route to South Africa. Anecdotal reports are that the numbers have been on the increase in the past two years, possibly because other nations, such as Mozambique, are making it harder for undocumented migrants to travel through their countries.

Most of these migrants have been imprisoned since December and do not have identity documents.

As “prohibited migrants” they were ordered by the Malawian court to be repatriated within three months of their initial arrest, but they remain imprisoned, MSF said.

At least 193 Ethiopians, 14 Congolese and two Burundians were at Maula Central prison in Lilongwe, whilst others were detained in other prisons across the southeast African country.

MSF’s deputy head of mission in Malawi, Nicolette Jackson, shared the humanitarian organisation’s grave concerns at the impact of the “extreme” prison overcrowding.

MSF: In Maula Central Prison, in Lilongwe, there are over 300 migrants who are locked up in the remand section of the prison. Some of these migrants were delivered to the prison by the department of immigration in late 2014. As of early August 2015, they still don’t know when they will be released. These men are living in appalling conditions that are endangering their physical and mental wellbeing.

In addition to the migrants in Maula, there are about 100 migrants in three other prisons in Malawi at present.

Maula Prison is the largest prison in Malawi. It’s designed to house 800 inmates but currently it has over 2 400 residents.

MSF: As a humanitarian organisation working inside Maula prison providing medical services, we are witnessing the suffering that these migrants are enduring: extreme overcrowding, ill-health, insanitary conditions, inadequate food as well as the mental torment of not knowing when or how they will be released.

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