Coming Home: Nam refugees return from Bots
Gaborone -The governments of Namibia and Botswana have committed to speed up the clearance of Namibian refugees seeking to return home.
Recently, eight Namibian refugees were successfully repatriated from the Dukwi refugee settlement in Botswana.
Speaking during the handover ceremony, the Commandant of the Dukwi refugee settlement, Boning Leepo said his government was committed to ensuring the return of all Namibian refugees from Botswana.
Leepo said should clearance was done in the shortest time possible, more refugees would be able to return home.
“If clearance can take up to 11 months, some people will give up and end up changing their minds about returning to Namibia,” said Leepo.
The Botswana government, he said, is committed to ensure that all refugees return home, but added that this can only be done with concerted efforts.
Some refugees are said to have changed their minds at the last minute. Initially, 16 people were expected to return to Namibia, but the others dropped out during the process for various reasons, but only eight people managed to return.
Leepo explained that they expressed concern that the education of their children in that country would be interrupted.
“The people who changed their minds did so because they gave reasons that could not be resolved at the time. If the repatriation process could be speeded up, perhaps that could encourage others. We hope that within six months we will be able to return other refugees,” he said.
Leepo paid tribute to the Namibian government for welcoming the refugees back and assured them that the returnees were able-bodied and had been trained in various vocational disciplines.
When welcoming the refugees, Caprivi Region Governor, Lawrence Sampofu, called on the returnees to work hard in order to contribute to the ever-increasing demand for progressive socio-economic development in the country.
He also paid tribute to Botswana and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) offices from both countries for their efforts in ensuring a safe and sound return of their brothers and sisters. Sampofu encouraged the returnees to integrate with the mainstream economy without delay.
For his part, the Commissioner for Refugees in Namibia, Nkrumah Mushelenga, expressed concern at the reluctance shown by the remaining refugees, saying new strategies are needed, as a way to encourage them to return voluntarily to their place of origin.
He revealed that in order to encourage more refugees to return, a number of incentives have been put in place by the Namibian government and their respective UNHCR office.
“We are offering US$100 to any adult refugee coming back home and US$50 to children returnees,” he said.
According to Mushelenga, this would only apply to those who relocate within six months. In addition to the financial incentive, construction material is availed to help the returnees start building themselves homes upon their return.
He explained that time has come for the two countries to strengthen efforts to sensitise the Namibian community living in Botswana to come back home.
“No one qualifies to be a refugee anymore, as Namibia has long stabilised and is now the best place for one to live in,” he said.
There is close to a 1 000 Namibians living at the Dukwi refugee camp, majority of which are reluctant to return home. Many of the expatriates are from the Zambezi Region, who fled the country following a failed attempt by the Caprivi Liberation Army to secede the region from the rest of the country in 1999.
Mushelenga has in the past called on UN to help entice the refugees with attractive incentives for them to return home. The proposed incentives included increment in monthly cash payments from R200 to R900 plus building materials.