Botswana: 709 Namibian Refugees Face Deportation

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About 709 Namibian nationals living at Dukwi refugee camp face deportation back to their country of origin after the Court of Appeal ruled that they should be repatriated to Namibia. The Namibians and the government of Botswana have been embroiled in a bitter and protracted legal battle after the latter terminated their refugee status in December 2018.

The Namibians who regard themselves as Caprivians fled Namibia 20 years ago due to the crackdown by security forces at the Caprivi Strip. The Namibian nationals currently residing at Dukwi refugee camp strongly belief that Caprivi Strip should be an independent country from Namibia.

This week, Director in the Ministry of Defence Justice and Security, Thobo Lethage and her delegation travelled to Dukwi refugee camp to address the Namibians and urged them to register for voluntary repatriation or face deportation. At the meeting, spokesperson of the Namibians, Felix Kakula said they acknowledge that they have overstayed in Botswana and that they are no longer refugees but illegal immigrants after their refugee status was terminated by the government of Botswana. Kakula highlighted they will not register for voluntary repatriation because they are afraid of persecution by the Namibian government upon their return home. "Most of us who fled to Botswana are members of the United Democratic Party and we ran away after the Namibian government cracked down on UNDP supporters at Caprivi Strip," he said.

Kakula stated that they want an assurance from the Namibian government that they will not be persecuted when they return home. "We want an assurance from the Namibian government first that if we go home we will not be mistreated and assaulted for our political affiliation, failure of getting such an assurance, we will not register for voluntary repatriation. We are ready to fully cooperate with security forces in Botswana if they want to remove us from the Dukwi refugee camp to Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants awaiting our deportation since we are now illegal immigrants," he pointed out.

According to Kakula, they still want to engage in a dialogue with the Namibian government to solve the impasse surrounding the Caprivi Strip adding that they also want some of the UNDP supporters who are currently languishing in prisons in Namibia to be liberated.

Earlier on, Lethage told the Namibians that they have been given up to the 31 August to have registered for voluntary repatriation or face deportation. "Those who will register for voluntary repatriation will be given their medical reports; those taking essential drugs will be given three months' supply so that when they get home they will be able settle well. You will also be given monetary grants of 300 USD for those 12 years and above while those who are less than 12 years will be given 100 USD," Lethage averred. She went on to say that the Namibians will be given three months food rations to help them settle in their home country. Lethage emphasized that government is even willing to offer counselling to the Namibians so that they can come to terms with their imminent repatriation adding that they have been cleared by the Namibian government to return home and enjoy the peace and tranquillity currently prevailing in the neighbouring country.

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