Travelling Without Documents is Risking People’s Lives

By Anock Enock

There are people out there who have chosen to do things that endanger their lives in the name of searching for money. Refugees choose to leave their country and enter Malawi illegally and this is very risky because they can be deported immediately once they are caught. Some Malawians at the boarder decided to be helping this kind of people because of poverty and lack of jobs. They do not care whether they are putting themselves at risk of getting arrested since this business of smuggling people pays a lot. This is the horrible indirect human trafficking that is happening due to lack of travelling documents. I believe that it would be easy for them to travel if they would have all the papers. However, it is not possible to get the papers since they were running from danger in their own countries.

I managed to speak to a certain Ethiopian friend called Chiwanda (I use a made-up name to protect his identity). Chiwanda came to Malawi in 2018 as an illegal immigrant through Tanzania. He left his wife and four children in his home village in search for better life. He hopes that one day he will make it in life and be able to provide a good life to his family.

I met Chiwanda in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi, at Plan Community Hall, where I went to watch soccer. The hall is a place where refugees go to relax during afternoon hours. Due to the population increase, the coordinator there made schedules for youths and adults to access the hall at different hours in the evening. Chiwanda was sitting next to me and we had something in common. We are both Manchester City fans and that’s what connected us. From that time, we became friends and we could not miss Saturday and Sunday shows at the community hall. He shared with me his life story and here is what he told me:

Before taking a risk of crossing the border of Tanzania to Malawi, I reached to a place called Morogoro. The police caught me while I was just walking on the road trying to find a bus that would take me to Kyela. I was arrested at Morogoro police station for a week and two days. I had some money with me that I had hidden in my underwear. Thanks to God that the police did not see it while searching me. During my days in prison, I managed to speak to the police who caught me. I told him to release me and I will give him some money. He then told me that “I am not sure where you can find money. You are a broke guy here in prison”. I removed a hundred note that I had with me but deep down, I was like he will not release me after taking my money. After six hours, he opens the cell and told me that, “You are lucky my friend. Get out before I change my mind”. I was so lucky to see myself out of Morogoro police station. I was remaining with a couple dollars that enabled me to reach in Kyela.

Before reaching in Kyela, I faced a situation that made me loose hope. There two strangers who attacked me on the road at night. They beat me up and took my phone that I was using for communication. I was surprised that they removed my card that was in the phone. I was hurt a lot and I had no idea of which hospital to go to and I was afraid that if I decide to go to the hospital, I would get myself arrested. I wished I could cry but I had no courage to do because I was already passing through a lot. The spirit of not giving up on myself was activated already and I could not shake with the incident of men assaulting me. I did not lose hope that I would make it to where I was going.

I spent ten days walking by foot in order to cross the border of Tanzania and Malawi through a small bush which is near the border. When I was walking, I made sure to pull the back cloth of the fellow friend who was in front of me since we were walking in a que to avoid anyone to go missing in the bush. Once I manage to cross, there is a stranger that collected us at night around 11pm that took us and my colleagues to a place called Mzuzu boma. When I arrived in Mzuzu with my friends who I was together with, the guy who came to collect us gave us a juice called Embe. It was so sweet and it was my first time to drink it. He also gave us bread that we ate together with the drink that he brought us. Most of my friends were saying that we should not drink and eat until we meet the person who was in Dzaleka. We were afraid that they would give us poison so that we can all die on the way. I was very afraid to be honest.

The Malawian person who was trying to help us so that we could not get caught by the police or the immigration officers showed earned my trust for giving us something to eat. Moreover, with the horrible routes that we took from Kyela Tanzania boarder to Mzuzu, I had already given up my life. I was ready for anything that would happen to me. The Malawian man found a big van that was covered and we all entered into it at night. We were parked like things not human beings since the van that is supposed to carry ten passengers carried twenty people on that day. However, we had no choice but to do as we were told. The Malawian man remained at that place and we went with the driver. Communication was hard for us since the driver spoke Chichewa and we only knew how to speak a little English. He could speak to us in his language sometimes because of anger or may be being afraid. I actually don’t remember what he would say to us. In my prayer, I just wanted us to reach to our destination safely without being caught because we would be deported right way.

On our way to Dzaleka, we could not say that we wanted to urinate because the driver feared the police. It is unimaginable that some of us urinated in the car. We arrived in Dzaleka refugee camp in the morning around 4am. The driver called the Ethiopian guy who worked with them and handled us over to him. Finally, we met someone who spoke the same language like us. I was a bit relieved because I met someone that we shared the same culture. However, he was not the person I knew. The one we communicated about the deal when I was back home went to South Africa to do his businesses. The guy who he told that he should receive me took me to his place and gave me shelter and feeds me everyday. I am waiting for the guy who went in South Africa to come so that I can go ahead with my journey because I can’t survive living in the refugee camp. On top of that, I have a family back home that is waiting for me to provide something. Therefore, I need to move out of the camp since it is like a transit for me to pursue with my journey of searching for a better life for my family.

Chiwanda’s experience touched me so much and I would relate to what my friend was telling me. I felt sorry for him for passing through the hardships until he arrived in Dzaleka Refugee Camp. I would say that he is the luckiest person because not everyone would pass through what he passed through and survive like him. The situation in Dzaleka is not easy for refugees and asylum seekers. The hardships plus the inflation that has attacked the country make the refugees situation to worsen. We are not allowed to work nor travel freely which is so hard for somebody who left his or her home in searching for a better life.

Just few days ago, I discovered that Chiwanda has left Dzaleka refugee camp. I wished I could meet him again so that I can hear more about what happened to him before arriving in the camp. I have tried to go back to the community hall several times but he cannot show up anymore. The Malawian phone number that he was using is not reachable as well. I hope that nothing wrong has happened to him and I believe he has now left the country as he said it to me before that he does not want to stay here for so long.

He once told me that he wanted to go to South Africa to keep his ambition of searching for a better life. With the courage that he has, I believe that there are just few steps before he achieves what he wants. I do hear some rumors that people who go to south Africa make it in life because jobs are easy to get. I can imagine that he is now working in a factory and works day and night to make sure that his life changes. Where he is now, I believe that bread, soap, oil and other basic needs are not an issue as the way it is here in Dzaleka refugee camp.

14 August, 2023