In reaction to various concerns from the general public, government plans to crack a whip on illegal entrants by deporting them while relocating all bonafide refugees to Dzaleka Refugee Camp by June 2013.
But a renowned human rights de¬fender has warned government to tread carefully on the issue saying procedures must be followed.
Although Malawi government is a signatory to various international conventions on the rights of refugees and immigrants including United Nations' 'Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees' the country still rounds up immigrants and deports them after prosecution.
However Home Affairs minister Uladi Mussa told Malawi News on Thursday that government will no longer allow people from other countries to enter the country anyhow.
"We have bonafide refugees who have been screened by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the rest are illegal immigrants. As such by June next year, we will have brought sanity by sending back all non-deserving immigrants some of whom wars ceased in their countries. Why should we continue harbouring them?" said Mussa.
"Currently we are working together with UNHCR to find a better way of deal¬ing with the refugee question. Some of these people are no longer refugees hence we should not keep them. We had Mozambicans in the past, after the war they returned home. Why these others are not returning home that we do not know," he added.
Answering an emailed questionnaire, Associate Field Officer responsible for UNHCR Gavin Lim said there is a mixture of foreigners who seek asylum in the country.
"Only a small number of migrants from the Horn of Africa claim asylum in the country. Whether or not those do qualify for asylum depends on circum¬stances of their individual and where they are coming from. Clearly Somalia is in the midst of war where in Ethiopia there are some credible claims of political oppres¬sion and human rights abuse," said Lim.
Lim stressed that government of Malawi has obligations to fulfill owing to commitments that it has made in international protocols.
"As signatory to relevant refugee to conventions, Malawi has an obligation to allow those fleeing war or persecution to enter and remain on its territory according to principle of non-refoulement, to which states have a duty not to expel or return refugees to a territory where their lives would be threatened," he added.
When posed with the question that if Dzaleka has enough capacity to accommodate all the refugees, Mussa said, "that's why we want to send those who are not bonafide back home so that we can create space for only those who are deserving."
Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) Executive Director Rafik Hajat however stressed the need for government to follow existing protocols when trying to deal with the problem of illegal immi¬gration.
"Sometimes this issue becomes tricky especially when it comes to the vetting process as some of these might be political or economic refugees while others might be insurgents which send jitters to hosting nations," said Hajat, "the question should be whether procedures are being followed when dealing with this problem. Government should not act arbitrarily on this issue as these people's rights are enshrined in UN refugee charters.
Lim though conceded the threat that the refugee problem causes when it comes to verification of individual status.
"At the moment, we cannot say all migrants from the Horn of Africa are bonafide refugees, but some of them will be and require protection under international law. The management of and mixed migratory flows is primarily a matter for government. In UNHCR's view, regional collaboration is crucial as this issue is not affecting Malawians alone," he said.
The developments are coming hard¬ly weeks after 48 immigrants reportedly lost their lives on Lake Malawi when the water vessel they were using to cross¬over into the country capsized.
Both Home Affairs ministry and UNHCR agree that refugees are facing a considerable risk.