Thursday, February 25, 2021

Court stops government from deporting Ugandan refugees

Botswana government’s decision to strip two Ugandan refugees of their refugee status and deport them was stopped by the High Court minutes before the pair was due to board the plane back home. Government wanted to deport the two Ugandan refuges back to Uganda although the Ugandan government refused to give assurances that they would not be victimised.

The duo has also launched a P 1million lawsuit against the government of Botswana for unlawful detention at the Centre for Illegal Immigrants. Documents obtained by the Sunday Standard show that the government had booked flight tickets for Timothy Yamin and Musa Isabirye but they successfully interdicted the government from deporting them to Uganda at the last minute.

Through an urgent application, the refugees’ lawyers Dingake Law Partners approached the Gaborone High Court which rescinded the decision to deport the duo while they were about to board the plane to Uganda. The government had also unilaterally revoked the two men’s refugee status. According to the High Court Judge Lakhinder Walia, ordered government to release the two refugees to Dukwi Camp and to reverse its decision to revoke the two men’s refugee status.

Government’s defeat at the hands of the two refugees follows the deportation of their colleague, Peter Muganga who was booted out of the country recently. Following the decision of the High Court, the government is now pursuing other legal manoeuvres to have the two men’s refugee status revoked. District Commissioner Cordelliah Mpape has written to the refugees’ lawyers instructing them to appear before the Refugee Advisory Committee. She states in a letter dated 15 April 2015 that the Committee’s mandate is to summon before it any person in respect of whom an inquiry is to be held. But information reaching this publication is that the two refugees have snubbed the Committee’s call to appear before it. Dingake Law Partners accuse the committee of confusing Yamin for being an immigrant while he is a recognised refugee.

“We do not understand, and you certainly are not helping us as to why a second inquiry should be done when client is recognised as such. Even then you do this not based on any provision of the Refugees (Recognition and Control) Act,” Dingake Law Partners stated. The lawyers warned that “should you be minded to continue to proceed with inquiry and no basis has been laid we hold instructions to interdict you from doing so costs of which shall be on your account.”

The lawyers also sate that “contrary to your summons that client is to make representations concerning his case before the committee, client has no such case before the committee, nor does he know of any case against him before the committee, its basis and who placed it before yourselves. Your conducts over years towards Mr Yamin demonstrate a clear case of abuse and which hunting against him for no apparent reason.” Speaking in an interview, the refugees’ lawyers, Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Partners said the government disregards the security and safety of the two refugees and their families. He said the Botswana government failed to have an assurance from the government of Uganda that the refugees would not be victimised.

“The moment they walk out of the plane they will die. There is no assurance from the Ugandan government; the problems that made the refugees to flee Uganda, we are not assured that they have been resolved,” he said. Dingake said while refugees are international subjects, laws that apply to citizens should also apply to them because they are not less human. “Whether they are refugees or not, they are entitled to family life. One of the wives had a miscarriage upon learning that they were to be deported, she was depressed and admitted to hospital,” he said.

He asked rhetorically “One of the ideals of vision 2016 is compassion, but where is it?” The message from the refugee is clear; I ran away from my country because my life was in danger.

That is why they are accorded political refugee status, but what has changed in their country, nothing,” said Dingake. Dingake said the non intervention of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR), from a diplomatic point of view demonstrates a collapse of relationship between the agency and Botswana Government.

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