Botswana tightens screw on refugees

Botswana tightens screw on refugees

> Mpho Tebele

GABORONE-BOTSWANA’S Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security this week said it is in the process of replacing all current identity cards issued to refugees and asylum seekers with biometric identity cards.

A circular from the ministry, seen by The Southern Times, states that all recognised refugees and asylum seekers in Botswana – including those authorised and unauthorised who live outside the Dukwi Refugee Camp in northern Botswana – are required to present themselves in person at the camp.

“The purpose of this public notice is to ensure that all affected individuals are issued with biometric identity cards as a matter of priority. The data capture, which includes biometrics, will be done in person and not by proxy,” reads the circular.

It says the process will run from 23 February to 30 April 2017 to allow all affected individuals sufficient time to present themselves to the office of the Settlement Commandant in Dukwi Refugee Camp.

“After this period all current identity cards will be declared null and void, which will inevitably render holders of such old cards subject to the Immigration Act,” the statement says.

There are approximately 3,000 refugees and hundreds of economic migrants from various African countries living in Botswana.

Meanwhile, local media reports indicate that under the National Development Plan 11 document, the government says “the management of refugees will be strengthened by enhancing the operational efficiency of the Refugee Advisory Committee in the screening and interventions of asylum seekers to ensure that only genuine refugees are granted asylum in the country”.

According to the document, the current refugee (control and regulation) Act is undergoing review and amendment to align it with government policies, such as first country of Asylum and Enactment Policy and international refugee instruments like the 1951 UN convention on the status of refugees and protocols and 1967 protocol relating to the status of refugees.

Due to the scale-down of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) activities in the country, the report says, the Botswana Government will take up and provide some of the services that hitherto were provided for by the UNHCR.

In the pipeline is also the migration policy, which government says is intended to manage the influx of both legal and illegal migrants, who compete with locals for social amenities thereby posing security threats.

The NDP 11 report says the reforms are necessitated by the fact that there has been an influx of migrants into the country for various reasons such as economic and political benefits.

It says, “These migrants, who can either be legal or illegal, pose some security risks such as increased crime, terrorism activities, labour market saturation and increased competition with the populace for social amenities. The latter can create conflict with the local populace, which could be a recipe for instability.”

To address this migration challenge, government will develop a rigorous migration policy during NDP 11 to deal with this issue before it degenerates into a more complex situation.

The report further says the government will review the system of managing security documents to enhance their security features through the use of modern technology in order to make it difficult to be tampered with.

“The number of fraudulent acquisition of security documents such as national identity cards, passports, birth and death certificates, work and residence permits has been on the increase in recent years.

These security documents facilitate criminal activities such as identity theft, organised transnational crimes, and terrorism, among others,” the report states.

February 2017
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