Dukwi — Government continues to work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in finding lasting solutions to the plight of refugees.
This was said by Assistant Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Mr Dikgang Makgalemele at the commemoration of World Refugee day in Dukwi on June 20.
He said Botswana had a history of protecting and assisting refugees, noting that government would continue to alleviate the suffering of those in need as it was a reflection of Setswana values.
"The country's commitment of hosting refugees will subsist for as long as there are people who without choice find themselves having to flee their countries on account of political, religious and racial intolerance," he said.
He explained that during the refugees stay in the camp, the government created a conducive environment for the refugees' population, citing HIV treatment, care and support, the United States President Emergency Fund for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) funds and a ARV clinic.
The assistant minister announced that the funding would be extended to March 2019 when the government would assume full responsibility for administering the services to the refugee population.
"This means that refugees will have free access to all programmes such as Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment (HAART), Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT), Safe Male Circumcision (SMC) and Tuberculosis screening," he said.
Mr Makgalemele, however, emphasised that government was resolute in its belief that the best durable solution for refugees was for them to return to their countries of origin.
He added that to this end refugees were encouraged and shall be facilitated to return to their countries of origin in safety and dignity whenever it was safe to do so.
He acknowledged and appreciated the support of the government of Namibia and the UNHCR in implementing the Tripartite Agreement which provided the legal framework for the return of Namibians who have been residing at the Dukwi Refugee Camp.
Furthermore, he noted that under the auspices of the agreement refugees had been returning home and remained confident that they would continue to do so voluntarily.
However, Mr Makgalemele said despite the support extended to the refugees, government still faced challenges citing among others poor adherence to medication by some patients attributed to alcohol abuse.
At the same time, he noted that there were some refugees who deliberately flouted the laws of Botswana and policies governing the refugee programme in the country.
He cautioned them to desist from such bad behaviour.
Meanwhile, UNHCR chief of mission, Mr Arvind Gupta said wars, violence and persecutions worldwide had forced displacement to a new high number of refugees.
He said in its annual global trends report released recently, UNHCR said 68.5 million people were displaced as of the end of 2017, adding that among them were 16.2 million people who became displaced during 2017 either for the first time or repeatedly, indicating a huge number of people on the move.
This year's commemoration was held under the theme: # With refugees.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>