Despite the continued influx of illegal immigrants into Botswana from around the globe, the authorities are still to devise a clear-cut policy framework to address the situation.
Meanwhile, the lack of a well-defined mechanism has at times been blamed for failure to manage illegal immigration efficiently, on the basis that it created operational concerns for affected stakeholders, especially during anti-crime exercises and custody of illegal immigrants.
This follows the release of a Performance Audit Report No.9, 2008 on the management of the illegal immigrants by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIC), from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) this past week.
According to the report, the existence of a policy on illegal immigrants was crucial because it would have been a guidance tool for the efficient management of illegal immigrants by the DIC and the respective stakeholders.
The Auditor General stated, “The policy on management of illegal immigration would have identified the intent of the government to address this issue along with stating the general approach and strategy to manage various aspects that appertain to the issue.”
On the contrary, the present situation is such that the DIC depends on the Immigration Act Chap 25: 02. It was observed by the OAG that, with the promulgation of the said act, the department issued regulations to assist the Immigration Officers to perform their duty.
Against this background, the report exposes the folly of the existing dispensation thus; “The Act and Immigration Subsidiary legislation specifically provided for the procedures to be adopted for issues such as; Warrant of Detention and Removal of Prohibited Immigrants, whereas, it did not mention the procedure to be followed in case of illegal immigrants.”
The senior Management of the DIC, according to the report, opted to defend the present order by expressing the view that there was no difference between “a Prohibited Immigrant” and “Illegal Immigrant” as both were treated as undesirable persons.
“An Illegal Immigrant is a foreigner who either illegally crossed an international border, be it by land, water, or air or a foreigner who legally entered a country but nevertheless overstays their visa in order to live and or work therein,” asserted the Auditors.
To further elaborate on the world of difference between the two categories, Section 7 of the Act is cited.
The section goes, “A Prohibited Immigrant is a person who: has infirmity of mind and body; is any idiot, epileptic, insane or mentally deficient; any prostitute; is declared by President to be an undesirable inhabitant of or a visitor to Botswana; the wife and children under the age of 18 years and any other dependent of a prohibited immigrant.”
On the basis of this, it was argued that these were distinct categories for which procedures to apprehend, detain and repatriate were to be provided separately.
Moreover, the fact that the parties involved in dealing with the Illegal Immigrants, namely DIC, Botswana Police Service (BPS) and the Department of Prisons and Rehabilitation (DPR), each has to rely on their own Acts makes life even worse. In this arrangement the DPR is required to detain the Illegal immigrants in the Prison Cells waiting for the DIC to finalize their investigation and repatriation processes.
The members of the BPS on the other hand are responsible for overseeing the anti-crime exercises, and clean up campaigns targeting such alien elements.
To compound matters, the Audit report alludes to a complaint by the Prisons department of the adverse effect of the lack of coordination on their financial budget.
“This proved that the role that each organization had to play and their cut off links in the issue were not clear,” lamented the Auditors.
An extreme scenario manifested, according to the report, in instances where partly because of their exclusion from the investigations, and therefore ignorance as to their, the Prison Warders when detainees complained to them regarding detention, they would merely release them without a word to the Officer in Charge of the DIC. This, it is reported, tended to bring tension between the two entities.
Thus, from this context, it emerges that issues of accountability and best international practice are of no consequence in the management of alien persons.
To address this discord, the OAG recommended that the DIC should take reasonable steps to review and amend the existing instruments in line with the gaps highlighted.