World Refugee Day commemorated under heavy security presence


The World Refugee Day was commemoration of  under a heavy presence of security personnel at Dukwi refugee camp last week. This comes after Namibian refugees planned to stage a demonstration to protest government’s decision to revoke their refugee status.

The government of Botswana has given about 900 Namibian refugees living at Dukwi two months elapsing on July 11, for them to register for voluntary repatriation or face forced deportations. Ever since government revoked their refugee status, only 7 Namibians have returned back home. The Namibians are refusing to go back home arguing that their lives are at risk as they might be persecuted once they return back to their home land.

Security personnel surrounded the refugee camp in Dukwi last week to keep an eye on the situation. A police source told this publication that they were deployed at the camp to arrest the Namibians if they were to cause any unrest at the camp. The Namibians boycotted the commemoration and they decided to stay at their houses as a sign of their displeasure about the government’s decision to cancel their refugee status.

About 10 Namibian refugees are currently detained at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants after they picketed at the SADC headquarters in Gaborone where they handed a petition to the SADC secretariat. They want SADC to intervene and stop their looming deportation back to Namibia. The disgruntled Namibians have even suggested that the government of Botswana should identify a third country willing to accommodate them rather than sending them back to Namibia. Department of Prisons spokesperson, Kabelo Gaseitsiwe confirmed that 10 Namibian refugees have been detained at Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants. “They were arrested after they held demonstrations without a permit,” Gaseitsiwe revealed.

Recently Minister of Defence Justice, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi addressed the Namibians at Dukwi. Kgathi told them that government strongly believes that refugee status is not and was never intended to be permanent hence refugees are expected to return to their countries of origin once the situations there stabilise. “Botswana considers Namibia to be a stable, safe and secure nation with well-functioning governing institutions that observe the rule of law. I urge you to return back home so that you can participate in the socio-economic, cultural and political arena of your home country,” Kgathi explained.

In December 2015, government attempted to repatriate Namibian refugees but the move was interdicted by a high court order after the refugees launched a court case to interdict their looming repatriation. Most of the Namibian refugees who are still staying in Botswana are fighting tooth and nail for Caprivi Strip in Namibia to stand alone as an independent country.