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FILE - Marataner refugee camp in Nampula. [File photo: DW]
The number of refugees seeking asylum in Mozambique has dropped since 2020, with the country currently hosting around 28,000 foreigners forced to flee their homes, Mozambican authorities said on Friday.
Up until 2019, Mozambique received an average of 3,000 annual asylum seekers a year, but in 2020 that number dropped to around 277, in 2021 to 57. “From January until now (June), we received just seven [applications],” director general of the National Institute for Refugee Support (INAR) Cremildo Abreu said.
Speaking at a press conference on the 20th World Refugee Day, Abreu said that the largest refugee reception centre in Mozambique, in Marretane, Nampula province, in the north of the country, had seen a 60% drop in the number of people living there in the last five years.
The site now houses about 9,000 of the approximately 28,000 asylum seekers scattered throughout the country.
Most foreigners forced to flee to Mozambique come from the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa, an area which has furnished 97% of the refugees the country now hosts.
They are mainly fleeing armed conflicts, various types of persecution and destruction of livelihoods caused by the impact of climate change, the INAR director general said.
Abreu noted that the decrease in the number of foreigners seeking Mozambique as a destination for asylum could mean that the country is no longer “attractive” to refugees, describing the reasons for this situation as “complex”.
“It is possible that Mozambique is no longer an attractive place to seek refuge, but it is necessary to understand and analyse the situation at a regional level, to see if the situation is the same in other countries [in Southern Africa],” he remarked.
Conversely, there are more refugees leaving Mozambique, either because they are voluntarily returning to their own countries, or because they have chosen a third state to live in, Abreu added.
The Mozambican state, Abreu continued, would remain committed to ensuring protection and assistance to refugees, allowing voluntary return to countries of origin, choice of a third destination country or integration, in conditions of dignity, into the national community.
Figures released by UNHCR on the occasion of World Refugee Day indicate that more than 100 million people have fled their homes around the world, including those internally displaced, due to persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations and other disruptive events.
In Mozambique, there are, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 784,000 people internally displaced by the armed conflict in Cabo Delgado province, northern Mozambique, a situation that has already left around 4,000 dead, according to the ACLED conflict register.
Since July 2021, an offensive by government troops, with the support of Rwanda, and later joined by SADC personnel, has secured the recovery of areas where there was a rebel presence, but their flight has led to new attacks in other districts used as a passage or as temporary refuge.