Amnesty International tells Botswana to spare refugees

Wednesday July 11 2018


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Amnesty International (AI) has appealed to the Botswana government to refrain from forcing refugees from Namibia back home.

The deadline for the victims of the Caprivi conflict to voluntarily return home, ends Wednesday.

According to AI, 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 support and medical services at the Dukwi Refugee Camp, where they have been living for almost two decades.

Those men, women and children should not be forced to return home if their personal safety cannot be guaranteed, AI quoted its Deputy Director for Southern Africa, Mr Muleya Mwananyanda, as saying.

Expressed anxiety

“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,” he was further quoted.

AI visited Botswana last month and spoke to some of the refugees, who expressed anxiety after the government took away their refugee status.

The Namibians 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 refugees.

Asylum seekers

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 in Botswana, 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.