Bots terminates Angolans’ refugee status

Gaborone – Botswana has given Angolan refugees in the country until this October to repatriate to their country.

A statement issued by the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security says the move is consequent to the government’s decision to terminate their refugee status as of July 1, 2013.

The decision follows the fundamental changes that have taken place in Angola since the end of civil war, which makes it possible for Angolan refugees remaining in exile to return home.

Since the end of civil war in that country in April 2002, over 470 000 Angolan refugees have voluntarily and safely returned home and have been reintegrated.

Currently, only some 130 000 Angolan refugees remain in exile, mainly in neighbouring countries in Southern Africa.

In light of the fundamental changes that have taken place in Angola since the end of the civil war, Angolan refugees remaining in exile ‑ who were granted refugee status on account of the civil war in their country and the war of independence that preceded it ‑ should now be able to reclaim the national protection of their country of origin.

Botswana rescinded the refugee status of the Angolan nationals in that country as of July 1, 2013, following recommendations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

This is pursuant to Article 1C(5) and (6) of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (“1951 Convention”), Article I(4)(e) of the 1969 Organisation of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, and the Botswana’s Refugee (Control and Recognition) Act.

Consequently, Botswana gave the concerned Angolans up to October 31, 2013, to repatriate to Angola.

Botswana says it will work closely with UNHCR to give effect to the cessation of refugee status for Angolan refugees.

In particular, Botswana will collaborate closely with Angola, UNHCR and other relevant partners to proactively pursue all feasible measures to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of affected Angolan refugees to their home country in safety and dignity.

The situation of those individuals whose refugee status ceased on July 1, 2013, but for whom an alternative legal status or solution has not been secured in accordance with the terms of the Comprehensive Strategy, will be addressed in accordance with national immigration and other applicable laws.

Notwithstanding this declaration, any asylum applications submitted by Angolan nationals still pending as of June 30, 2012, will be adjudicated in a fair and proper manner in keeping with applicable international and national refugee law governing the determination of refugee status.

Meanwhile, during 2011/12, Botswana deported at least 62 351 immigrants, 61 945 of which were illegal immigrants, while 406 were prohibited immigrants.

Minister of Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu, told Parliament recently that the highest number of deportations came from Zimbabwe, followed by South Africa and other countries.

The minister said over the past two years, his ministry received 10 948 applications for the renewal of work and residents permits of which 2 191 were rejected.

Reasons for rejection, Batshu said, included availability of suitable skills, authenticity of information and documents supplied, character of the applicant, security considerations, commitment to localisation process, proof of investment capital and employment offer.

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