Botswana sends SOS asylum seekers’ welfare

By Mpho Tebele

Gaborone – Botswana’s Minister of Defence Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi has told the Parliamentary portfolio committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security that his ministry intends to approach Parliament to request for more funds as the number of asylum seekers has increased.

According to Kgathi, 360 asylum seekers out of the 494 housed at Dukwi Refugee Camp in northern Botswana had challenged their detention at the centre for illegal immigrants and the court ruled in their favour, resulting in them being released to Dukwi Refugee Camp despite them not being bonafide refugees.

He said these asylum seekers joined more than 2 137 refugees at the camp and this meant there was a need to increase the budget to cover for the provision of ablution facilities, additional classrooms at Dukwi Primary School, expansion of the Dukwi Clinic and other welfare packages. Kgathi said the majority of refugees and asylum seekers were from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

One of the members of the committee, Bogolo Kenewendo, assured Kgathi that they would support his ministry’s request for more supplementary funds. When delivering judgement recently, Court of Appeal president, Justice Ian Kirby, said it was illegal for the Botswana government to detain hundreds of asylum seekers at Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants. He therefore ordered the state to transport the asylum seekers and accommodate them at Dukwi refugee camp.

The attorney general had engaged private law firm Collins, Newman & Co to appeal a decision by Francistown High Court judge, Justice Phadi Solomon to have the asylum seekers released to Dukwi refugee camp. The state argued that the respondents (Engama Ngezi and 163 others) were rightfully placed at Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants. The asylum seekers had sought court intervention to be recognised as refugees and not criminals entering Botswana with some hidden motives.

More than 250 refugees have been awaiting relocation to Dukwi since an order was issued by Justice Solomon that they be transported to the Dukwi refugee camp by or before 21 July 2017. Justice Kirby ordered the state to respect Justice Solomon’s decision of 14 July 2017 wherein she had instructed the state to transport and accommodate the asylum seekers at Dukwi Camp.

‘’The order of the court below dated 14th of July is expanded to the extent that the state should comply with this in full by no later than 5pm on Friday August 2017 by which time all the 163 asylum seekers including their registered dependents shall have been conveyed to Dukwi refugee camp at government expense and should have been accorded temporary shelter and basic necessities,” Kirby noted.

September 2017
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