A 'harvest' in Malawi: the position of albinism in Refugee Law

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

The albinism community in Malawi has been faced with gruesome human rights violations for the past decade. These violations have included, assaults, kidnapping, mutilations, and murder. The cause of such violations is that the community of Malawi has for so long embraced the superstitious belief that the body parts of people with albinism are an essential charm for good luck. As a result of this, the albino community faces extinction because of the small population. The definition of a refugee under the 1951 Refugee Convention on the other hand, only provides for five grounds of persecution which includes race, religion, nationality, political opinion and membership of a particular social group. The dissertation seeks to unravel whether the international law grants refugee status to people with albinism. In response to the question, the dissertation analyses the definition of a refugee under the 1951 Convention. Persecution and inability of a State to protect victims of human rights violations are important elements to establish a solid case for refugee application. Hence, the dissertation tends to analyse whether the treatment of people with albinism in Malawi amounts to persecution. Besides, whether, they could be granted refugee status in other countries. The dissertation, furthermore, tends to analyse whether there are other mechanisms of the international community that are used to protect people with albinism. The findings in this thesis are that albinism is a ground of persecution because of the treatment that is followed due to their defined characteristics. That due to certain factors that needs to be satisfied to amount to effective national protection; Malawi has failed to protect people with albinism. Therefore, based on those factors, people with albinism could be granted international protection of refugees. Though there are other mechanisms by the international community used to protect people with albinism, there is a need to change the definition of a refugee under the 1951 Convention to accommodate problems arising in the contemporary world.