A Somali refugee who was last month detained for almost two weeks at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants and only released upon intervention by his lawyer, has accused agents of the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS) of unlawful detention and harassment. The refugee, Elmi Sheik Ali, who resides at Dukwi Refugee camp, also revealed that this is not the first time that he has suffered harassment and ill-treatment at the hands of DIS agents.
In an interview with the Sunday Standard, Elmi Sheik Ali said he has been a target of DIS agents before, who detained him for no reason and threaten to kill him if he does not grease their palms.
“I am not the only one suffering here. The DIS agents always harass us, looking for bribes. We have no choice but to pay them because if we don’t we are tortured and detained for no reason,” he said in an interview with Sunday Standard.
Ali and his three colleagues were arrested and detained at the Francistown Center for Illegal Immigrants from 19th to 30th June until their lawyer; Morgan Moseki demanded their release through a letter to the Regional Immigration Officer on June 27th. The aggrieved Ali now wants to be resettled from Botswana to another country of asylum. He has also written to the UNHCR Protection Officer seeking for action to be taken against the DIS agents. At the time of the interview, he said the UNHCR Protection Officer had not yet responded to his complaint letter of 2nd July.
“I need protection. I am not Bin Laden. I am not a terrorist. This is why I engaged a lawyer to seek my release from unlawful detention and pursue my protection. I am a sick man who suffers from sugar diabetes and I don’t deserve to be detained because I haven’t committed any crime.
I have been in Botswana for almost 20 years and I never had a brush with the law. The government of Botswana has helped me a lot and it is unfortunate that there are some corrupt elements within government who want us to bribe them,” said Ali.
He also produced a permit, issued by the Ministry of Defense, Justice and Security, that allowed him to be outside the camp at the time of his arrest and detention. Ali also revealed that he operates a car dealership in Francistown where he sells imported cars.
He said he suspects that his competitors are working in cahoots with the DIS agents to harass him without justification. At the time of his arrest in Francistown, he had obtained a permit from the Settlement Commandant to visit Gaborone to collect cars. The permit allowed him to be out of the camp from June 16th to 30th. He also revealed that he has not yet received a response to the letter of complaint that he wrote to the UNHCR Protection Officer.
“But I want this issue to be published so that the international community is alerted of my plight,” he said.
In the letter of demand for Ali’s release, attorney Morgan Moseki told the Francistown Regional Immigration Officer that his client was unlawfully detained even though he had valid permits that allowed him to be outside the refugee settlement.
Moseki said that perusal of the warrant of detention which was issued under Sections 10 (1) and 14 (1) of the Immigration Act shows that its issuance marked a turning point in the freedom and dignity Botswana has accorded refugees since independence in 1966.
“It has been the norm and tradition as constitutionally provided that any person suspected to have committed an offence in this Republic is charged by a competent officer of the law and should never be detained under shroud for offences not known. Since the establishment of the Centre for Illegal Immigrants, we have had innocent victims detained there indefinitely at the pleasure of your office. The first case was of three or so Congolese in 2005 and many others,” he said.
He demanded the immediate release of his client failing which legal action would be taken against the Regional Immigration Officer and the officers who had his clients arrested and detained.
“Should we not hear from you by Monday 30th June 2014, we shall file an urgent application before the High Court for their release,” warned Moseki.
Upon receipt of Moseki’s letter, the authorities released the four Somali refugees. Sunday Standard’s efforts to seek comment from the UNHCR Protection Officer in Gaborone were futile at the time of going to press.