|Emigrant (Photo credit: photopol)|
Recent global migration patterns have witnessed the rise of Africans voluntarily leaving their country of origins and settling elsewhere. An estimated 30 million individuals of the voluntary African Diaspora live outside their country of origin. Jointly, they contribute about US$40 billion in remittances to their families and communities back home every year. It is well documented that for the region as a whole, the remittances far exceed official development assistance and for many countries they exceed foreign direct investment as well. In the current financial climate, remittances remain a resilient and vital lifeline for tens of millions of African families, including those in Malawi. For centuries, Malawians have crossed boarders for various reasons. Largely, it has been in search of opportunities to better their lives and that of their families. Globalization, facilitated by improved access to transportation and communication technologies, now makes it easier for Malawians to migrate more than ever before thus increasing the amounts of remittances back home. Many Malawians are now acquiring permanent residency and citizenship in their new host countries. However, upon acquiring foreign citizenship, they lose their Malawian citizenship.
Current Malawian laws do not recognize Dual Citizenship for individuals over 21 years. Section 6 of the Malawi Citizenship Act of 1964, states that "No citizen of Malawi, being a person of full age and capacity, shall be entitled to be also a citizen of any other country." By exercising citizenship rights and privileges in another country, Malawians lose their Malawian citizenship. Section 24 requires the Malawian to automatically relinquish their Malawian Citizenship acquiring the citizenship of another country. Exercising rights of a foreign country includes obtaining a foreign passport. As such, Malawians thus acquire the legal status of a foreigner in Malawi and under international regulations.
The current Dual Citizenship laws in Malawi hinder the ability for Malawians to fully participate in the development of the nation. The majority of remittance money is used to send relatives to school, build properties, assist charitable causes, and invest in the country. Dual Citizenship laws prevent access to travel, work and study for Malawians across the globe which affects the amount of remittances they can send home. Malawian culture relies strongly on cultural values such as umunthu. The current laws alienate Malawians from their homeland, thereby causing emotional duress and identity crisis. They encourage the separation Malawian families, thereby causing hardship for all Malawians. In addition, since Dual Citizenship is a criminal act under the current constitution, the current laws facilitate a situation where the only option left for ordinary people is to circumvent these laws, thereby encouraging illegal activity.
In the Malawian spirit of umunthu, the Movement for Dual Citizenship, therefore aims to advocate the Malawi Government to reconsider the criminal element imposed on laws and policies on dual citizenship.