Nam, Zim refugees voluntarily return home

By Mpho Tebele

GABORONE – Namibia and Zimbabwe refugees, who stayed at Dukwi Refugee Camp in northern Botswana, have decided to return to their countries of origin voluntarily, it has emerged.

Botswana’s Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi, told Parliament that Namibian refugees continued to come forward for voluntary repatriation, even in the face of a court order relating to the cessation clause of December 2015.

Kgathi was referring to some Namibian refugees at Dukwi, who have since approached the High Court to issue an order against their deportation to Namibia.

The relief order appealing to the government of Botswana not to revoke the refugee status of about 730 Namibians currently living at the Dukwi Refugee Camp is still pending before the High Court. But Kgathi said despite the application before the High Court, “This year alone, eight Namibians have opted for voluntary repatriation, and were facilitated to return home, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).”

He pointed out that this has built “positiveness towards the repatriation process”.

Kgathi expressed optimism that many more would come forward “as we believe there is no place better than home for any internationally displaced person”.

“Similarly, seven Zimbabweans opted for voluntary repatriation between January and February 2017,” said Kgathi.

He said during the same period, 48 refugees originating from Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi were resettled in Canada, Australia, Finland and the United States.

Botswana hosts about 3,000 refugees from 14 countries across Africa, the minister revealed, adding that most refugees were from Namibia (919), Zimbabwe (688) and Somalia (316).

“My ministry continues to strive towards facilitating the return of refugees to their respective countries, as we believe, this is the most durable solution,” he said.

He said the amendment to the Refugee (Recognition and Control) Act is on-going.

“The intention of the amendment is to improve the management of refugees, and to align it to other domestic and international statutes and obligations, balanced with the emerging global security challenges,” said Kgathi.

On other issues, Kgathi said, Botswana was witnessing an increasing number of human trafficking cases.

April 2017
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