Dukwe refugees given 11 July ultimatum

17 May 2018 | International

OGONE TLHAGE

Namibians residing in the Dukwe refugee camp in Botswana have been given until 11 July to leave the country.

The announcement was made by Botswana’s defence minister Shaw Kgathi recently when he addressed a crowd at Dukwe.

According to him, following the cessation of their refugee status in December 2015 and a subsequent Botswana High Court case that interdicted their repatriation, they should go back to Namibia.

The Botswana government, Kgathi said, considered Namibia to be stable, safe and secure, with well-functioning governing institutions that observe the rule of law.

This view, he said, was also supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as evidenced by the decision to invoke the cessation of the refugee status granted to those at Dukwe.

Namibia’s home affairs minister Frans Kapofi said recently plans were in full swing for the repatriation of the refugees.

According to him, the Namibian government is working closely with the UNHCR and the Botswana government to guarantee the safe return of the group.

“Government is committed to the principle of voluntary repatriation as a durable solution; hence we are working together with the government of Botswana and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to ensure their return, in a dignified manner,” Kapofi said.

Botswana president Mokgweetsi Masisi had warned during a recent state visit to Namibia the refugees would be regarded as illegal immigrants, should they fail to return home.

He confirmed they no longer enjoyed refugee status and Botswana.

“There are laws that govern what you do and how you conduct the business of illegal immigrants and that will follow.

“If there are Batswana who are in Namibia as illegal immigrants, I am sure the laws of Namibia will also result in them being assisted to go home.

“So we await the outcome of possible engagement, but we want to make this clear,” Masisi was quoted as saying.

The group fled to Botswana after a failed attempt to secede the then Caprivi Region from Namibia in the late 1990s.

The Botswana government initially planned to deport the remaining Namibians living at Dukwe by 31 December 2015.

However, in January 2016 the Botswana High Court halted the planned deportation of the remaining 880 refugees.

According to Namibia’s ministry of home affairs, there are a reported 906 refugees currently resident in Dukwe. -Additional reporting by the Botswana Press Agency

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