Malawi

34,000

Immigration detainees

2018

36

Detained children

2017

3,278

New asylum applications

2020

14,897

Refugees

2020

191,362

International migrants

2020

Overview

Types of facilities used for migration-related detention
Administrative Ad Hoc Criminal Unknown

21 April 2020

Victor Mhango from the Centre for Human Rights Advice Assistance and Education addressing Prisoners at Chichiri Prison, (Nyasa Times, “CSOs Call for Decongestion in Malawi Prisons as Response to Covid-19,” 18 March 2020, https://www.nyasatimes.com/csos-call-for-decongestion-in-malawi-prisons-as-response-to-covid-19/)
Victor Mhango from the Centre for Human Rights Advice Assistance and Education addressing Prisoners at Chichiri Prison, (Nyasa Times, “CSOs Call for Decongestion in Malawi Prisons as Response to Covid-19,” 18 March 2020, https://www.nyasatimes.com/csos-call-for-decongestion-in-malawi-prisons-as-response-to-covid-19/)

As of 19 April Malawi did not have any reported cases of Covid-19. The country has also not taken any measures to lockdown businesses as the country’s High Court blocked such measures in a ruling on 19 April. However, there are growing concerns among civil society organisations about the impact the virus could have in the country’s overcrowded prisons, which also house immigration detainees. Malawi’s prisons reportedly confine more than 14,000 prisoners despite having a capacity of only 5,000.

A joint statement issued by the Centre for Human Rights Advice Assistance and Education, Youth Watch Society, Paralegal Resource Centre, Southern Africa Litigation Centre and Child Rights Advocacy and Paralegal Aid Centre called on the country’s president to “release all prisoners who are serving time for minor offences including contempt of court, being idle and disorderly, being a rogue and vagabond, common nuisance and breach of the peace.” The statement also urges that priority be given “to those that are terminally ill, older persons, persons with TB and others chronic illnesses and those who have served a substantial part of their sentences” and urges “ the President to prevent the detention in prison of all migrants who are detained on immigration-related charges.”

According to the International Detention Coalition (IDC), its local members in Malawi have raised concerns about migrants being “swept up” in four detention centres that were reportedly opened for quarantine purposes. After 14 days, migrants are to be transferred to immigration detention centres and prisons. IDC members have mentioned that conditions in Malawi’s detention centres are inhumane and inadequate as there is a lack of access to water or soap in the cells where migrants are being forced to stay.

On 9 April 2020, a visit to Zomba Central Prison revealed that the facility has six buckets used by thousands of prisoners who wash their hands without soap. It is reported that new inmates are only being screened for HIV and TB but not Covid-19, which increases the risk of spread of Covid-19. One of the inmates expressed concern about the situation: “We were warned about coronavirus by the prison authorities. They advised us that we must wash hands regularly. My duty is to see that new detainees wash their hands before being admitted to the facility. There are no coronavirus testing kits at the clinic. After they are tested for TB and HIV, the new inmates are admitted and sent to the various blocks.” Malawi’s president also announced that his administration is to decongest the prisons by releasing prisoners and juveniles who committed petty offences and those having served a significant portion of their sentences for moderate crimes.


Last updated:

ENFORCEMENT DATA

Total Migration Detainee Entries: Flow (year)
187
2021
Total Migration Detainees: Flow + Stock (year)
Not Available
2019
34,000
2018
19,669
2014
Countries of Origin (Year)
Burundi (Congo (Kinshasa)) Somalia Rwanda Mozambique
2018
Congo (Kinshasa) (Rwanda) Burundi Somalia
2014
Number of Asylum Seekers Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
19,669
2014
Number of Women Placed in Immigration Detention (year)
9,244
2014
Total Number of Children Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
36
2017
Number of Unaccompanied Children Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
756
2016
400
2014
Number of Accompanied Children Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
Not Available
2014
Number of Stateless Persons Placed in Immigration Detention (Year)
Not Available
2014
Number of dedicated medium-term immigration detention centres
Not Available
2014
Number of immigration offices
11
2021
Number of Deportations/Forced Removals (Year)
1,698
2014
Number of Voluntary Returns & Deportations (Year)
111
2014
Number of Apprehensions of Non-Citizens (Year)
350
2009
Immigration Detention Capacity (Specialised Immigration Facilities Only)
7,000
2019
Number of Criminal Facilities Used for Immigration Detention
30
2019
Criminal Prison Population (Year)
14,060
2019
14,018
2016
12,236
2012
11,672
2010
10,830
2007
9,220
2004
7,920
2001
6,505
1998
4,886
1996
4,685
1993
Percentage of Foreign Prisoners (Year)
0.2
2014
1
2009
Prison Population Rate (per 100,000 of National Population)
71
2019
79
2016
77
2010
78
2007
74
2004
68
2001
61
1998
48
1996
48
1993

POPULATION DATA

Population (Year)
19,100,000
2020
17,215,000
2015
International Migrants (Year)
191,362
2020
247,652
2019
215,200
2015
International Migrants as Percentage of Population (Year)
1
2020
1.2
2015
Refugees (Year)
14,897
2020
13,782
2018
8,982
2017
9,386
2016
9,019
2015
5,874
2014
Ratio of Refugees Per 1000 Inhabitants (Year)
0.53
2016
0.35
2014
New Asylum Applications (Year)
3,278
2020
7,603
2019
17,028
2016
3,877
2014
Number of People Granted Temporary Protection Status (Year)
Not Available
2020
Refugee Recognition Rate (Year)
100
2014
Stateless Persons (Year)
0
2020
0
2016
0
2015

SOCIO-ECONOMIC DATA & POLLS

Gross Domestic Product per Capita (in USD)
625.3
2020
255
2014
Remittances to the Country
217
2019
29
2014
Remittances From the Country
29
2019
Unemployment Rate
6
2020
2014
Net Official Development Assistance (ODA) (in Millions USD)
1,206.22
2019
930.2
2014
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)
174 (Low)
2019
173 (Low)
2015
Integration Index Score
15
2019
World Bank Rule of Law Index
43
2019

B. Attitudes and Perceptions

MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION

Does the Country Detain People for Migration, Asylum, or Citizenship Reasons?
Yes
1989
Does the Country Have Specific Laws that Provide for Migration-Related Detention?
Yes
1968

LEGAL & REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

Do Migration Detainees Have Constitutional Guarantees?
Yes (Republic of Malawi (Constitution) Act Chapter IV: Human Rights) 1966 2017
1966
Detention-Related Legislation
Malawi: Immigration Act of 1964 (1964) 1987
1964
Additional Legislation
Access to Information Act, 2017 (2020)
2020
Malawi: Refugee Act of 1989 (1989)
1989
Prisons Act (Chapter 9:02) (1956)
1956
Regulations, Standards, Guidelines
Malawi: Refugee Regulations, 1990 (1990)
1990
Malawi: Immigration Regulations of 1968 (1968)
1968

GROUNDS FOR MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION

Immigration-Status-Related Grounds
Detention to establish/verify identity and nationality
1968
Detention to effect removal
1964
Non-Immigration-Status-Related Grounds in Immigration Legislation
Detention on health-related grounds
1964
Detention on public order, threats or security grounds
1964
Criminal Penalties for Immigration-Related Violations
No (Yes)
1964
Grounds for Criminal Immigration-Related Incarceration / Maximum Length of Incarceration
Unauthorized entry (14)
1964
Unauthorized re-entry
1964
Has the Country Decriminalised Immigration-Related Violations?
No
1964
Children & Other Vulnerable Groups
Asylum seekers (Prohibited)
1989
Persons with disabilities (Provided)
1964
Accompanied minors (Provided)
1964
Mandatory Detention
Yes (Undocumented non-citizens with criminal records)
1964
Yes (Non-citizens who have violated a re-entry ban)
1964
Expedited/Fast Track Removal
Yes
1964
Summary Removal/Pushbacks
In Law: No
1989
Re-Entry Ban
Yes
1964

LENGTH OF MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION

Maximum Length of Administrative Immigration Detention
No Limit: Yes
1990
Average Length of Immigration Detention
No Limit: Yes
2016
Maximum Length of Detention of Asylum-Seekers
1989
Recorded Length of Immigration Detention
No Limit: Yes
2016
Maximum Length in Custody Prior to Detention Order
Number of Days: 14
1964
Maximum Length of Detention at Port of Entry
Number of Days: 14
1964
Maximum Length of Incarceration for Immigration-Related Criminal Conviction
(365)
1964

MIGRATION-RELATED DETENTION INSTITUTIONS

Custodial Authorities
The Defence Force of Malawi Defence
1966
Apprehending Authorities
The Malawi Police Service (Police) Ministry of Foreign Affairs
1966
The Malawi Prisons Service (Prison or correctional agency) Ministry of Defence
1966
Detention Facility Management
The Prisons Service Commission (Governmental)
1966
Formally Designated Detention Estate?
Yes (Dedicated immigration detention facilities)
2021
Types of Detention Facilities Used in Practice
Immigration detention centre (Ad hoc)
2021

PROCEDURAL STANDARDS & SAFEGUARDS

Procedural Standards
Right to appeal the lawfulness of detention (Yes) No
2017
Compensation for unlawful detention (No)
2017
Information to detainees (Yes)
1966
Right to legal counsel (Yes)
1966
Right to appeal the lawfulness of detention (Yes)
1966
Duration of Time between Detention Reviews (Day)
Not applicable: Yes
1964
Legal Appeals (Year)
Number of appeals during year: 11969
Number of successful appeals during year: 3357
2015
Are Non-Custodial Measures/Alternatives to Detention (ATDs) Provided in Law?
Immigration Law: Yes
Asylum/Refugee Law: No
1988
Does the Law Stipulate Consideration of Non-Custodial Measures (ATDs) before Imposing Detention?
Immigration Law: Yes
1968
Types of Non-Custodial Measures (ATDs) Provided in Law
Provision of a guarantor (Yes)
1968
Impact of Legal ATDs on Overall Detention Rates
Decreased ("To help deal with prison overcrowding, Malawi instituted a community service order plan in 2000. By late September 2004, Malawi had placed 5,225 offenders on community service orders. They performed 838,000 hours of work, and completed 87 per cent of the tasks assigned. For offenders who completed their community service obligation, the rate of re-offending fell to 0.25 per cent, or just one of out of every 400 offenders. In addition, the Malawi government saved $227,717 by using community service rather than imprisonment.")
2004
Access to Detainees
Lawyer: Yes
Family Members: Yes
NGOs: Yes
International Monitors: Yes
Consular Representatives: Yes
2020
Recouping Detention or Removal Costs
Detainee Charged
1968

DETENTION MONITORS

Is There A National Human Rights Institution (NHRI)?
1966
Official Name of NHRI
Malawi Human Rights Commission
1966
Is There a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM-OPCAT)
2021
Types of Authorised Detention Monitoring Institutions
The Malawi Red Cross Society (Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO))
2019
Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO))
2000
Prison Inspectorate Board (Parliamentary (Congressional) Organs)
1966
Malawi Human Rights Commission (National Human Rights Institution (or Ombudsperson) (NHRI))
1966
Malawi Judiciary: Judges of the High Court (Judiciary organs)
1956
Insitutions that Can Make Unannounced Visits
The Malawi Red Cross Society
2019
Malawi Human Rights Commission
1966
Malawi Judiciary: Judges of the High Court
1956
Is the NHRI Recognised as Independent by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions?
Yes
2021
Does NHRI Visit Immigration Detention Centres?
Yes
2019
Does NHRI Receive Complaints?
Yes
2019
Does NHRI Release Reports on Immigration Detention?
Yes
2019
Does the NPM Visit Immigration Detention Centres?
Yes
1966
NHRI Monitoring Reports
2015 Annual Report, 31 March 2016
NGO capacity to receive complaints?
Yes
2019
Do parliamentary organs have capacity to receive complaints?
Yes
2019
Do parliamentary organs publicly report on their detention findings?
Yes
2018
Names of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that Carry Out Detention Monitoring Visits
Yes
2019
Do IIAs have capacity to receive complaints?
Yes
1956
Do IIAs publicly report their findings from detention inspections?
Yes
2019
Names of Parliamentary/Congressional Organs That Visit Detention Centres
Yes
1966
Parliamentary/Congressional Monitoring Reports
Malawi Prison Service Strategic Plan: 2015-2020
Names of International Monitoring Bodies that Carry Out Detention Monitoring Visits
Yes
2019
International Monitoring Reports
UNHCR, Joint Assessment Mission Report: Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi, November 2014
UNHCR, Joint Assessment Mission Report: Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi, 2012
[NEW] Is There A National Human Rights Institution (NHRI)?
Yes (Malawi Human Rights Commission) Yes Yes Yes Yes
1966

TRANSPARENCY

Transparency Ranking on Migration-Related Detention
Little or No Transparency
2021
Does the Country Provide Annual Statistics of the Numbers of People Placed in Migration-Related Detention?
No
2018
Is Detention Data Disaggregated?
No
2018
Does the Country Have Access to Information Legislation?
Yes
2020

READMISSION/RETURN/EXTRADITION AGREEMENTS

COVID-19

HEALTH CARE

Provision of Healthcare in Detention Centres
Limited or Some Detention Centres Only
2020
Medical Screening upon Arrival at Detention Centres (within 48 hours)
Yes
1956
Psychological Evaluation upon Arrival at Detention Centres
Yes
1956
Doctor on Duty at Detention Centres (at least once per week)
Yes
1956
Qualified Nurse Present at Detention Centres (on daily basis)
Unknown
1956
Regular Psychologist Visits at Detention Centres (at least once per week)
Unknown
1956

COVID-19 DATA

Has the country Temporarily Ceased or Restricted Issuing Detention Orders?
Yes
2021
Has the Country Adopted These Pandemic-Related Measures for People in Immigration Detention?
Yes
2021
Has the Country Locked-Down Previously "Open" Reception Facilities, Shelters, Refugee Camps, or Other Forms of Accommodation for Migrant Workers or Other Non-Citizens?
Yes
2021
Have cases of COVID-19 been reported in immigration detention facilities or any other places used for immigration detention purposes?
Yes
2021
Has the Country Released People from Criminal Prisons During the Pandemic?
Yes
2020
Has the Country Restricted Access to Asylum Procedures?
Yes
2021
Has the Country Commenced a National Vaccination Campaign?
Yes
2020
Have Populations of Concern Been Included/Excluded From the National Vaccination Campaign?
Included
2021

INTERNATIONAL TREATIES

International Treaties Ratified
Ratification Year
Observation Date
ICPED, International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance
2017
2018
VCCR, Vienna Convention on Consular Relations
1980
2017
ICERD, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
1996
2017
ICESCR, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
1993
2017
ICCPR, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
1993
2017
CEDAW, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
1987
2017
CAT, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
1996
2017
CRC, Convention on the Rights of the Child
1991
2017
CRPD, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
2009
2017
CRSR, Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
1987
2017
CRSSP, Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons
2009
2017
CTOCTP, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children
2005
2017
CTOCSP, Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
2005
2017
OPCRPD, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
1987
1987
Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
Ratio: 14/19
Treaty Reservations
Reservation Year
Observation Date
CRSR Article 22 1987
1987
2017
Individual Complaints Procedures
Acceptance Year
ICCPR, First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 1996
1996
Ratio of Complaints Procedures Accepted
Observation Date
1/7
2017
Relevant Recommendations Issued by Treaty Bodies
Recommendation Year
Observation Date
Committee on the Rights of the Child § 39. "The Committee recommends that the State party: (a) Review its child refugee management policies, followed by sufficient awareness-raising on the existence and scope of the policy; (b) Scale up the support and facilities for children in refugee camps, particularly by addressing the shortage of sanitation, education facilities, leisure activities and medical services and by providing children with the opportunity to continue higher education and have access to employment; (c) Provide migrant and refugee children with adequate support, including safe homes, in conditions that meet their special protection and assistance needs; (d) Put in place measures for family tracing and reunification; (e) Consider withdrawing reservations to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, particularly on the right of association (art. 15), which limits the freedom of movement and place of residence, on public education (art. 22) and on naturalization (art. 34), which has been used to deny most of the applications by refugees to residence permits." 2017
2017

NON-TREATY-BASED INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS

Relevant Recommendations from the UN Universal Periodic Review
Observation Date
No 2011
2017
No 2015
2017
Yes 2020

REGIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS

Regional Legal Instruments
Year of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
Observation Date
ACHPR, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights 1989
1989
2017
ACRWC, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child 1999
1999
2017
APRW, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) 2005
2005
2017

GOVERNANCE SYSTEM

Legal Tradition(s)
Common law
2017
Customary law
2017

DETENTION COSTS

OUTSOURCING

FOREIGN SOURCES OF FUNDING FOR DETENTION OPERATIONS