Ethiopian Migrants: Trapped in Malawi Prisons

MALAWI. Lilongwe. June 01, 2015. Maula Prison.
Luca Sola
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Over 200 migrants, the majority of them from Ethiopia, are currently incarcerated in Malawi prisons because of their undocumented status. Most were on their way to South Africa, hoping to flee harsh poverty and make a better life there. The justice system for migrants in Malawi is unclear: most of these prisoners have finished serving their sentences and were supposed to have been released and repatriated already. The migrants are detained in harsh condition: there is extensive overcrowding, food is inadequate, and sanitary conditions are precarious. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is providing medical care in two of these prisons. 

MALAWI. Lilongwe. June 01, 2015. Maula Prison.
Luca Sola
MALAWI. Lilongwe. June 2015. Maula Prison. As of July 20th there were 193 Ethiopian migrants detained in Maula prison because of their illegal status. They were all on their way to South Africa is hope for a better future. They are detained all together in a single cell (portrayed here in this picture) designed to house 50 to 60 people, resulting in extreme overcrowding conditions. 160 of them had finished their sentence by June 12th but were still detained. Overcrowding is a dire issue in Maula prison that is currently at three times its intended capacity. The water and sanitation situation in the prison is critical and is well below the minimum requirements as defined by humanitarian agencies during an acute emergency. In Maula prison there is one tap for 900 people where the minimum requirement during an emergency is one tap per 200-250 people; and one latrine for 120 people against a minimum of one latrine per 20-50 people.
Luca Sola
MALAWI. Lilongwe. June 01, 2015. Maula Prison. A member of the MSF medical staff examines a patient. Detainees in Maula high security prison in Lilongwe, Malawi, often suffer from poor health due to inadequate conditions of detention.
Luca Sola
MALAWI. Lilongwe. June 02, 2015. Maula Prison. Tamsgen Bakele, 18yo, from Ethiopia. He left Ethiopia around October 2014 due to the bad economical conditions and the lack of work and food. “My family does not produce enough food because we are poor.” He says.[NB he is one of the few Muslim Ethiopians in Maula Prison. He is portrayed in the prison's mosque. He planned to go to South Africa to look for a better job in order to help his family in Addis Abeba. He travelled through Kenya and Tanzania. According to what he declared: "In Tanzania some thieves stole my passport and all my money. Despite that I continued my journey to South Africa". He reached the Malawian border near Karonga, a small town in the homonym District in the North of the country, near Lake Malawi, on May 15th, 2015. While he was in Mzuzu, the capital of Malawi's North region, he felt sick so he couldn't continue his trip. Few days later Malawian Police arrested him for illegal immigration and is currently detained in Maula Prison. Now he is appealing to Malawian Government to be released and deported back in Ethiopia because, according to what he declared, "the journey to South Africa is too dangerous especially without legal paper and money. I'm in worry for my life and I'm scared to spend more time in another prison because without money or the support of your family that give you some proper food I seriously risk to fall ill due the malnutrition". He has finished his sentence in May and he feels he is being detained illegally. He is appealing to the Malawi Government to release him and deport him back home. He wants to go back home because of the hardships he has faced on his journey to South Africa.
Luca Sola
MALAWI. Blantyre. May 27th, 2015. Food distribution in Chichiri Prison. Prisoners are fed just once a day, due to the small budget that Malawian Government allocates to the penal system. The quality of the food is miserable - six days of Nsima (boiled corn flour with no salt or other ingredients) and boiled beans once a week. As a consequence cases of malnutrition are common.
Luca Sola
MALAWI. Blantyre. May 26th, 2015. Chichiri Prison. Prisoners sit in an overcrowded cell (cell 5) during the night, struggling to sleep. Overcrowding is a critical problem in Malawian jails. Chichiri Prison was built to house 800 prisoners instead of the 2000 currently detained there. According to medical statistics this specific cell 5, one of the most overcrowded, have the most case of viral transmissions (Tuberculosis, Hepatitis, Malaria, HIV) as well as the highest percentage of other diseases related to unhygienic conditions (Scabies, skin infections, rash).
Luca Sola
MALAWI. Lilongwe. June 2015. Maula Prison. Tasfaya Lanago is 18 years old. He left Ethiopia due to economic hardships and arrived in Malawi in December 2014. He was travelling with fellow Ethiopians. Upon arrival in Malawi he was arrested for illegal entry and sentenced to 6 months imprisonment at Maula prison in February 2015. He will finish his sentence in July 2015. His experience in prison has been terrible as food is inadequate, sleeping conditions are poor, lack of hygiene and lack of support economically as he does not have any relative or friend outside the prison here in Malawi. He appealed to the Malawi Government to release them as repatriate them back to Ethiopia as he felt their imprisonment was illegal. He has sores due to poor sleeping conditions: as most prisoners he sleeps on cement floor, next the the chamber that is used as a toilet, and usually sleeps on one side of the body. He gets treated at the prison clinic which is being run by MSF. «The place where I come from [Hosana] is mainly countryside and people do farming. In my family we are 8 children, 5 boys and 3 girls. Only my father works, he has a small business, selling things. All is not enough for us. Most of my brothers go to school, I decided to move out. No food there. Continuous drought. I worked in South Sudan, in Kastam, for two years. I was moving around, doing whatever I found: farming, small shops, and transporting goods. But there…ah!...there is not a peaceful country. And it is not easy to have stable job: people are bad, they don’t like us to stay, and they are always in war […] I get enough to move again, and through South Sudan I went to Uganda and then to Kenya. I was having some little money, enough to pay a truck to Tanzania. Yes…I wanted to go to South Africa because there I can work and do real money. […] When I arrived in Malawi I was caught. Before, what happened is that I staid 15 days in Dzaleka Camp (UNHCR-managed refugee camp in Malawi) and did little work. I changed some money I had and paid a truck. We were stopped by the Police in Deza and they caught me. They brought me to the Police Station where I stayed for three days, when Immigration came. They brought me to Maula…it was…I came in October 2014 in Malawi…I was arrested sometime around November, December, after one month, I mean. […] I wasn’t brought to Court, no. Here in Maula, Immigration always says: “You will be repatriated! Tomorrow, tomorrow…!” Ah! Tomorrow, tomorrow, always this they say!! It’s months I am here; nine months I think? how long I have to stay? […] If you ask if I would do what I did again…no…no…ah...no…I would stay in Ethiopia. This prison is terrible. I thought Africans were all brothers, but now…you see. We don’t have food, not clothes, or soap. They are killing us. If I knew this before….no…ah! »
Luca Sola
MALAWI. Lilongwe. June 01, 2015. Maula Prison. MSF Prison Coordinator, Caroline Aluda, (R) briefs her local colleagues, in Maula, about needs and results of the last weeks.
Luca Sola
MALAWI. Blantyre. May 26th, 2015. Chichiri Prison. Prisoners sit in an overcrowded cell (cell 5) during the night, struggling to sleep. Overcrowding is a critical problem in Malawian jails. Chichiri Prison was built to house 800 prisoners instead of the 2000 currently detained there. According to medical statistics this specific cell 5, one of the most overcrowded, have the most case of viral transmissions (Tuberculosis, Hepatitis, Malaria, HIV) as well as the highest percentage of other diseases related to unhygienic conditions (Scabies, skin infections, rash).
Luca Sola
MALAWI. Lilongwe. June 2015. Maula Prison. Abebe Aleme is an Ethiopian from Addis Ababa. He is 41 years old. He left Ethiopia for South Africa to look for a job. But he was arrested in Malawi as he was on his way to South Africa for illegal entry. «I want to say that many Ethiopians are in South Africa. This is why we go there. We go there because in our country we don’t have enough to live. In South Africa if I go I work for two years, three years, I can have something to buy a house. In Ethiopia if you work even twenty years you buy nothing. This is why we leave our country. Not for fun. […] My brothers and sisters are many, there isn’t land for all. I called my father, he is [was] in Nairobi, he said: “You have to get a job”, I told him there is no business here, and he told me: “it is better you get a job!” and he got angry. I closed the phone; I didn’t want to call him back. My brothers and sisters are many; there is no job for me. I go. Many Ethiopians are in South Africa as I said. They went by plane, because they are not bad economically. But we are poor. Where we come from it is poor and poor. We don’t have documents and we don’t have money to buy a ticket. We have to take out without plane, by bus or walk. Now I see what the thing is. It’s too bad. In prison here we are not human. We lost everything…you see, the shoes I have are given to me by a friend in Dzaleka [a friend gave me these shoes], before I had nothing, I passed through the forest [laughing], I lost all. But this is not democracy. This is not democratic. We sleep in the shamba and it is cement. We have pain in the morning. And what they give us as food is bad, too bad. No soap, no soap. We pray God every day to be free soon. If we come back to Ethiopia…you see these guys? Even if they come back to their country, what they do? They cannot work anymore. They are sick. They are blind. They are too weak to do any kind of work. »
Luca Sola