WINDHOEK - The government of Botswana yesterday confirmed it will deport 852 remaining Namibian ‘refugees’ who it said have failed to take advantage of the dispensation extended to them to register for repatriation under an existing tripartite agreement.
The refugees are part of a group of 2,400 refugees who fled Namibia in late 1990s during a wave of violence caused by secessionists fighting in the Caprivi
In a media statement, acting permanent secretary in the Botswana Ministry of Defence, Pearl Ramokoka confirmed the deportation, saying children of former Namibian refugees have been withdrawn from schools to join their parents who are scheduled to leave Botswana on deportation.
She said a senior officials meeting between Botswana and Namibia to finalise logistical arrangements for the deportations was scheduled to take place in Francistown yesterday.
The governments of Namibia, Botswana and UNHCR signed a tripartite agreement that would have seen the Namibian refugees being repatriated voluntarily to their country of origin.
Regrettably, Ramokoka said only three ‘former’ Namibian refugee families out of 855 have registered to be repatriated under the agreement.
The group has lost its refugee status after its safe return to Namibia was verified by various international bodies and the two government.
“Their registration for voluntary repatriation would have, among other things, entitled them to repatriation packages from the UNHCR in the form of resettlement allowances and associated benefits as well as consideration for their children’s educational placement upon resettlement in Namibia,” she said.
She added that the Botswana Court of Appeal’s judgment of 26th July 2019 confirmed the position that former Namibian refugees had to return to Namibia because they ceased to be refugees in 2015.
“In preparation for their return to Namibia, a grace period of one month was given for their voluntary registration for repatriation,” she explained.
Ramokoka stated that the legal implication of the Court of Appeal decision is that the former Namibian refugees are now classified as illegal immigrants and as a result, they have to be treated as such under the Immigration Act and accordingly be deported.
Thousands of people from the then Caprivi Region fled to Botswana in 1999 after a botched attempt to secede the region from Namibia. The rebellion, led by former member of parliament Mishake Muyongo, left 11 people dead, among them six members of the security forces.
About 300 suspected rebel fighters and civilian sympathisers were arrested, while some, including Muyongo, fled abroad. Many of those who returned from Dukwe have now been integrated into their communities without prosecution.
2019-09-13 08:00:20 | 2 months ago