Government has appealed against a recent High Court ruling ordering the release of 164 failed asylum seekers from Francistown’s Gerald Centre for Illegal Immigrants.
Earlier this month, Judge Phadi Solomon ruled that the 164 – who come from all over Africa – were detained illegally and should be transferred to Dukwi Refugee Camp by the 21st of July.
The deadline has since passed but to date only 60 have been moved to Dukwi. The rest remain stranded, left in limbo at Gerald.
Desperate to stop what they regard as a mistake, on Wednesday the government lodged an urgent stay of execution against Solomon’s verdict, whilst they await the result of the case they have opened with the Court of Appeal.
In their submission before Justice Lot Moroka, attorney Virgil Vergeer insisted that the government had a valid argument.
“The detention is lawful and the respondents will not suffer any prejudice. We have an arguable case. As per section 18 of the Immigration Act, they have no right to stay in Botswana as their asylum has been rejected,” opened Vergeer.
“The government has the right to detain the respondents pending their relocation. Justice Solomon in all due respect failed to apply her mind by considering the respondents were unsuccessful when seeking asylum – and by virtue of being unsuccessful they are not supposed to be in Botswana,” continued the attorney.
Meanwhile, human rights lawyer, Morgan Moseki, who is defending the rejected asylum seekers, dismissed the appeal as an ‘afterthought’.
“I do not understand why the applicant has filed the appeal when the Attorney General consented with the order from Judge Solomon.
“The petitioners are not liable to be removed from Botswana and they were not served with anything to show that they are to be removed. A person liable to be removed cannot be kept for more than 28 days in prison,” stressed a frustrated Moseki.
The appeal’s ruling will be heard on the 31st of July – until then the remaining ‘petitioners’ will remain at Gerald, frightened, confused and very much homeless.