The Northern part of Botswana is bursting at the seams, following an unprecedented influx of Zimbabwean asylum seekers: scantily dressed old men and women carrying children scramble for space at the Francistown bus rank and Masunga Stadium which have since turned into huge open air bedrooms.
Green military tents are mushrooming on every available patch of land at Dukwi Refugee camp and the Francistown Centre for illegal immigrants. The situation is expected to get worse before it gets better as the centre has already used up its budget allocation while more asylum seekers are expected in the country.
Most of the asylum seekers are poor farmers from rural areas who are fleeing persecution and harassment by ZANU PF militias. They are accused of voting for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
Close to 300 asylum seekers were by Friday housed at the Dukwi refugee camp after being transferred from the Francistown Center for Illegal Immigrants.
Information reaching The Sunday Standard indicates that the centre is grappling with the escalating costs of feeding the asylum seekers who are flocking into Botswana through the Matsiloje, Maitengwe and Ramokgwebana borders.
Media reports also state that the District Commissioner’s office has already depleted its budget of more than P200 000 from the office of the President, which they used to cater for the needs of the asylum seekers at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants.
It has also emerged that most of the asylum seekers arrive at the center without basic necessities like clothes, blankets and toiletries. Already facilities at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants are overstretched and tents have been pitched up to accommodate the increasing number of asylum seekers flocking into the centre. The situation is expected to worsen as more asylum seekers are expected to arrive from temporary holding areas that have been set up in areas bordering Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, some Francistown residents have reported sightings of hundreds of Zimbabweans, among them elders and children, sleeping at the bus rank at night. Reports from Masunga also indicate that hundreds of asylum seekers are being housed at the Masunga Stadium.
Kgosi Maruje Masunga could neither confirm nor deny the reports, only asking to be given more time before he can make a formal statement as the issue is very sensitive.
The government of Botswana is also said to have raised complaints with the Zimbabwean Embassy and the Southern African Development Community about the influx of Zimbabweans into the country. The Zimbabwean ambassador to Botswana is expected to visit the Dukwi Refugee Camp to analyze the situation.