The impact of refugees and asylum seekers in contributing to the local and national economic development nexus. A case study of dzaleka camp in malawi

Most governments have remained hesitant in hosting refugees and asylum seekers because their economic contribution to host economies has some controversies. Evidence from some literature shows context specific economic impacts as it targets individuals as well as communities surrounding the camp or settlements without necessarily trickling the benefits to the larger national economy in general. The study explored the impact of refugees and asylum seekers in terms of contribution to the local and national economy.

The target population for this study was principally drawn from refugees and asylum seekers, communities in Dzaleka and Dowa district, business entrepreneurs, dwellers, private sector players and vendors from the three cities of Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre.  Interview guides for survey questions, in-depth key informant interviews, and Focus Group Discussions were developed and administered for data collection. Data analysis employed mixed methods approach that addressed the needs of qualitative and quantitative data. Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 20, Microsoft Excel and Power BI were used to analyze data.

Results revealed great disparities in the level of understanding for refugees and asylum seekers as Malawians generally perceived them as economic immigrants’ opportunists in addition to increasing insecurity. However, refugees and asylum seekers were operating various business enterprises across the country dominating most of the local retail markets in many market points and paying various forms of taxes to Malawi government. Business enterprises conducted had ripple effects to the local and national economies. Nevertheless, some Malawians that were pessimistic about the contribution made by POCs in the areas of crop production and business enterprises clearly indicated that POCs made no contribution towards the development of the local and national economies. Various business enterprises positively contributed to the local and national economies in different forms such as creation of employment, opening new markets, expanding consumer markets, stimulating economic growth in regional areas through tax remittances, filling empty employment niches, increasing economies of scale, bringing in new skills and fostering innovation. A number of challenges were created when Malawi made nine reservations to the 1951 convention. Nevertheless, it has been proposed that Malawi should lift the reservation and implement the global compact on refugees as well as the comprehensive refugees’ response framework to ease pressure on its burden as recommended by the New York Declaration on Refugees. Implementation of the strategies will result in easing the burden Malawi often times faces in supporting POCs.

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