Botswana wants to kick out refugees
By Mpho Tebele
Gaborone – The future of refugees from the region who are accommodated at Dukwi Refugee Camp in northern Botswana hangs in the balance as the Southern African nation is pushing for their return to the countries of their origin.
The revelation was made by Botswana’s permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, Segakweng Tsianeng, at the recent 68th Session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme in Switzerland.
She said Botswana hosts about 3 500 refugees and asylum seekers.
“While at this point we like to see an escalation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) support in the resolution of the Namibian and Zimbabwean refugees case load in Botswana as we believe there no longer exist conflict or security fears of any form in both countries and given the fact that security clearances have been given for the safe return of the citizens of both countries,” said Tsiane.
“We also appeal for a long term solution regarding the situation of refugees from the DRC and Somalia who constitute the highest numbers after refugees from Namibia and Zimbabwe.”
According to Tsiane, the government of Botswana is committed to engaging with the UNHCR in an open and constructive manner in the implementation of Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).
“Needless to say such implementation will be executed within the provisions of our own domestic statutes and international law, as well as within the context of competing national priorities, in particular youth unemployment and poverty eradication which require a great deal of resources against a shrinking national budget and recorded deficit,” she said.
However, Tsiane said, Botswana was encouraged by the statement by the World Bank in terms of financial support which the country believes will be designed to meet the context and unique challenges of host countries if “we are to realise sustainable solutions and alignment to the SDG goals, which we believe should remain a bed rock for the actualisation of the New York Declaration.”
While, as a country, and as a member of the international community of states that stand firmly in the support of the ideals of the protection of refugees, Tsiane said Botswana trusted that locally inspired policies of first country of asylum and encampment would be given due recognition and support within the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework .
“It is our view that both policies fit like hand in glove in the burden sharing and response strategies as well as in achieving an efficient and well-coordinated services to the refugee community in Botswana relating to health, education and sustainable house-hold food self-sufficiency,” she said.
Tsiane said Botswana recognised the important role of the UNHCR in providing protection, assistance and durable solutions to millions of displaced people around the world, particularly in the regions of Africa and other areas that are grappling with emergency situations including conflict. She said the UNHCR decision to scale down operations in Botswana would certainly affect the country’s ability to respond to refugee needs. She added that in accordance with the objectives of the framework, specifically budget raising and permanent solution, Botswana continued to facilitate refugees who opted to voluntarily repatriate back to their countries, in particular those the country shared borders with.
“Our view is that the processes for repatriation should be re-engineered with a view to reduce turnaround time for the people wanting to return to countries so as to eliminate further psychological despondency and anxiety thereby speeding up the process of healing and reconciliation,” said Tsiane.
“It is our view that we need, as the UNHCR and members of Ex Com, to consider definitive engagement with the UN Security Council and regional bodies like ECOWAS, SADC and others for finding long term solutions to the underlying conflicts which are triggers for a refugee problem especially in Africa as well as committing resources for burden sharing and to ensure effective repatriation once positive indicators for the resolution of conflict are established.”