By Goitsemodimo Williams
Dukwi — Namibian refugees residing at Dukwi refugee camp have been given two months to go back to their mother land.
They have been given from May 11 to July 11.
Addressing over 900 refugees in Dukwi recently, Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Mr Shaw Kgathi said following their cessation of their refugee status in December 2015 and subsequently a high court case that interdicted their repatriation, they should go back to Namibia.
He said in April last year, he updated them on the measures in place to facilitate their return.
Minister Kgathi noted that during the April 2017 meeting, he clearly informed them of the position of the government of Botswana that their refugees’ status was never intended to be a permanent status, as such refugees were expected to go back to their countries of origin once the situation in their country stabilises.
Government considers Namibia to be stable, safe and secure, with well-functioning governing institutions that observe the rule of law, he said.
Furthermore, this was also the view of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as evidenced by the decision to invoke cessation.
In addition, Minister Kgathi highlighted that in 2015, the crux of their case was that the repatriation process lacked the assurances that the reason for which they fled their country no longer existed.
He said that was why the high court interdicted their repatriation on the basis of the assurances sought.
He added that following the high court order through the auspices of the Tripartite Commission established by an agreement signed between the government of Botswana, Namibia and UNHCR they had a meeting with counterparts to iron out their issues of assurances.
These meetings, he noted were fruitful and had the desired outcome because ultimately all Namibian refugees were cleared save except for 18 refugees who were advised to re-apply individually for clearance.
He however highlighted that the government of Namibia had now indicated that even those not cleared could receive clearance for return if they applied individually.
He thus stated that since December 2015 cessation, 42 refugees returned to Namibia and after the clearance was announced in December 2017 about 20 Namibians repatriated.
Minister Kgathi noted that the government of Botswana in terms of the agreements reached in the tripartite forum between the two governments and UNHCR decided it was time for the refugees to return to their country.
He emphasised that the repatriation was still on voluntary basis and those who would register would have their return facilitated as per the provisions of the Tripartite Agreement.
He nonetheless brought to their attention that in terms of the Refugees (Recognition and Control Act) when a minister declares that he/she does not recognise a person as a political refugee such a person shall be liable to be removed from Botswana under the Immigration Act and shall be subjected, in all respects, to the provisions of the Immigration Act.
Furthermore, he said as such, that meant that those who would have not registered would be dremoved from Botswana as per the dictates of the Immigration law.
Source : BOPA