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Government awaits judgement on refugees concerns

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AWAITING JUDGEMENT: Kgathi with the Namibian delegation

The Botswana government was stopped on its tracks by an appeal written on behalf of 866 Namibian refugees who refused to voluntarily repatriate on the set 11 July deadline.

The Voice has learnt that only 74 Namibians observed the deadline and returned home voluntarily with the help of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security had made it clear to the Caprivians, who fled their country in 1999 after the failed attempt to secede the then Caprivi region from Namibia, that failure to register for voluntary repatriation will automatically mean they lose their refugee status.

In a recent media briefing in Francistown Minister Shaw Kgathi warned that, all refugees who ignore the deadline would be rounded up and transferred to the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants where they would await deportation.

It has been nine days since the deadline and the Caprivians are still in Dukwi.

In an interview with The Voice, Minister Kgathi said that they had to wait following a complaint registered with the High Court. “Someone has appealed our decision on behalf of the refugees and we could not transfer them to the Francistown Centre of Illegal Immigrants lest we be seen to be pre-empting the court judgement,” Kgathi said.

“It is strange because the complaint has also written on behalf refugees who have voluntarily left,” the Minister said, further adding that they will know what further step to take after the court judgement.

3 COMMENTS

  1. “Some of the remaining Namibian refugees living at Dukwe recently petitioned the SADC Secretariat office in Gaborone, Botswana demanding that the regional body finds a lasting solution to what they term the “Caprivi political situation”.

    In this regard, Valombola said, “The ministry does not have latest update from SADC regarding the demand of Mr Felix Kakula who presented a signed petition by himself to SADC.”??
    SADC does not seem to care about refugees in the region this should have been one of their priorities

  2. “Botswana: Caprivi refugees should not be forced to return home
    11 July 2018, 07:33 UTC

    Botswana’s authorities should not force any of the Caprivi refugees to return to their home country Namibia, if a real risk remains that they would face persecution or other serious human rights violations, Amnesty International said as the deadline for their voluntary repatriation expired today.
    These men, women and children should not be forced to return home if their personal safety cannot be guaranteed
    Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa

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    More than 900 refugees, including at least 400 children who have never lived in Namibia, have been left in limbo after they were told by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) that they would no longer receive services such as food rations and access to medical treatment at the Dukwi Refugee Camp where they have been living for almost two decades.

    “These men, women and children should not be forced to return home if their personal safety cannot be guaranteed,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

    “A lot is at stake here, if the government of Botswana forces people to return to Namibia where they may face human rights violations, it will be breaching its international and national obligations under law.”

    This is not the first time Botswana has tried to repatriate refugees. In 2015, the Botswana government announced that it had revoked the refugee status of Namibians. Later in January 2016, the Botswana High Court ruled that Namibian refugees should not be repatriated until a legal case brought against the revocation order had been decided. This judgement was upheld on appeal in March 2016 on the grounds that the Ministry of Defense, Justice and Security had an obligation to ensure the safe return of the applicants.

    A lot is at stake here, if the government of Botswana forces people to return to Namibia where they may face human rights violations, it will be breaching its international and national obligations under law
    Muleya Mwananyanda

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    Amnesty International visited Botswana last month and spoke to some of the refugees. They expressed fear and anxiety after the government took away their refugee status without any support if they choose to repatriate to Namibia. The refugees told the organization that the situation leaves them in a precarious position.

    Facing an uncertain future

    Some of the people have expressed their fears about their future in Bostwana. One refugee, who arrived in the country in 1998 told Amnesty International that: “Now the situation is terrifying. We don’t know what will happen to us. Our kids won’t be able to go to school. 99% of the children are born here, they are Batswana by birth.”

    Another refugee has accused the government of Botswana of abandoning them. He told Amnesty International that: “The Botswana government is pushing us. We are in a situation where we don’t know where to go.”

    Amnesty International is also aware of another 16 former refugees, part of the initial group to flee the country, who have not received clearance from the Namibian government to return. This means that if they go back to Namibia they will be “illegal immigrants” and will be detained in the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants, and their future becomes uncertain. Amnesty International is concerned that this may result in statelessness, as well as the separation of families.

    The Botswana government is pushing us. We are in a situation where we don’t know where to go
    One of the people facing return to Namibia

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    “Botswana has an obligation protect and fulfil the human rights of every person who is in its territory. The government cannot ignore people who have nowhere to go to,” said Muleya Mwananyanda.

    The Botswana authorities must ensure the dignity and safety of anyone who chooses to return to Namibia. They should be given full information on their documentation.

    Background

    Thousands of people have fled the Zambezi region (formerly the Caprivi strip) in Namibia since 1998 fleeing persecution following political tension between the government and the secessionist group, the Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA). The tension escalated with an armed attack launched by the CLA on government forces and buildings on 2 August 1999 in the Caprivi region of north eastern Namibia.

    The Namibian government declared a State of Emergency and detained more than 300 people on suspicion of participating in the attack, sympathizing with the secessionists or assisting them to plan or launch the attacks.

    Fearing persecution and political violence, many people fled to neighbouring Botswana, where they have been living for almost two decades. While many have returned back home, some have remained in Botswana.
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  3. “Refugees and asylum-seekers

    Botswana’s restrictive encampment policy continued, denying refugees freedom of movement, work and local integration. Asylum-seekers faced lengthy refugee status determination procedures and asylum-seekers – with both pending and denied applications – continued to be detained in the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants. The duration of detention averaged between six months and five years, far beyond the detention period stipulated in the Refugee Act.

    On 13 April, the High Court ordered the release of two Somali asylum-seekers from the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants. They had been detained in the Centre since being denied refugee status in October 2015, having arrived separately in Botswana in June 2014. On 15 April, following their release, they were taken into custody at the Tlokweng police station after attempting to enter the Dukwe Refugee Camp, Botswana’s only refugee camp. On 25 April, President Khama declared them to be prohibited immigrants; they were subsequently detained at the first offenders prison in Gaborone, the capital, and have allegedly since been deported.

    On 23 November, the Court of Appeal set aside the High Court ruling that the detention of 165 asylum-seekers and their relatives was illegal. As a result, the asylum-seekers sought refuge in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. Members of the group had arrived in Botswana between January 2014 and October 2016 and, after their asylum applications were denied, they had remained in detention in the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants. The Attorney General made an appeal on 4 August.”