Over 900 Namibian refugees living in Botswana have been given two months to return home, local media confirmed.
The Botswana Daily newspaper quoted the country’s Defence, Justice and Security minister, Mr Shaw Kgathi, as making the announcement.
The refugees were residing at a camp in Dukwi, on the plains of eastern Botswana, about two hours’ drive from the provincial capital of Francistown.
According to the Botswana Daily, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also favoured the camp being closed.
Dukwi camp was established by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in 1978 to accommodate refugees from what was then known as Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
Oppression and racism
At its peak, the camp hosted more than 45,000 people, mostly fleeing oppression and racism in Zimbabwe and apartheid South Africa.
There were also refugees from Namibia as well as Angola, the scene of Africa’s longest and bloodiest civil conflict after the Portuguese left in 1975.
“Following the cessation of their refugee status in December 2015 and subsequently a high court case that halted their repatriation, they should go back to Namibia,” Mr Kgathi was quoted saying.
The minister was further quoted saying that measures were in place to facilitate the return of the Namibians, adding that Gaborone considered their home country stable and secure.
The Namibian have been residing at the Dukwi camp for almost two decades.
They fled to Botswana in 1999 following a civil war which rocked the northeastern part of their country, commonly known as the Caprivi Strip, between the Caprivi Liberation Army and the government.
Shortly after the unsuccessful secession attempt, about 3,000 people sought refuge in Botswana for fear of reprisals from the Namibian government.
In 2016, a high court in Botswana halted the deportation of the 928 Namibian refuges.
The court granted a temporary reprieve as the refugees launched an urgent application challenging the Botswana government’s decision to revoke their status.
Last year, the Botswana government said it wanted the about 3,500 refugees and asylum seekers to return to their countries of origin.
The nationals of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Somalia constitute the highest numbers of the refugees and asylum seekers after those from Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Botswana is one of the Africa’s most stable countries. It is also known as the continent's longest continuous multi-party democracy.
The southern African Nation is relatively free of corruption and has a good human rights record.