Thirteen Caprivians being held at Francistown’s Center for Illegal Immigrants may spend another Christmas behind bars because the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees can not find a country willing to give them refuge.
This was confirmed by the UNHCR Chief of Mission in Botswana, Roy Herrmann.
He explained that the issue seems to be taking long to resolve because the Caprivians have not yet been adequately categorized as refugees in terms of the United Nations. Herrmann said that he hoped that, after the interviews conducted with them recently, they will be categorised and countries of asylum found for them.
“I agree that it has really taken time to find a country of asylum for them which I think is a shame. But I am hopeful for them now,” said the Chief of Mission. “Things look positive for them now than ever before.”
Herrmann then declined to comment further on the case citing the sensitivity of the issue.
When the Caprivians first crossed into Botswana close to 10 years ago, they were 15 of them. Since then, two, including their leader, Meshack Muyongu, found asylum in Scandinavian countries.
Accusations against the men in their home country of Namibia, which has repeatedly demanded that they be repatriated, is that they had staged a mutiny against the democratically elected government of Namibia.
This issue has apparently cropped up in several high level meetings between the two countries and Botswana has maintained the stance that the issue will be resolved by the Courts of law.
Courts in Botswana have ruled that they can not be repatriated to Namibia because of concern that they might be tortured if that is done.
Some of their compatriots were two weeks ago sentenced to lengthy prison terms in Namibia for the offence.
The same source close to the issue said it is very likely to happen to those currently held in Botswana if they were repatriated.
Besides the Namibians being held at the Center for Illegal Immigrants, there are others in the Dukwi Refugee Camp. Some of those refugees have in the past opted to go home with the assistance of the UNHCR.