Friday, June 21, 2024

Dukwi’s encampment policy worries US

The United States has drawn attention to Botswana’s encampment policy that restricts the free movement of refugees and asylum seekers based at the Dukwi Refugee Camp in the country’s north. “As a general policy, the government required all registered refugees to reside in the Dukwi Refugee Camp under a strict encampment policy,” notes the US.

The United Nations (UN) repeatedly stated that the encampment policy forces refugees to rely entirely on UNHCR for basic necessities. In 2023, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) indicated that Botswana’s encampment policy, “exacerbates” sexual exploitation and abuse, particularly for women and children at the Dukwi refugee camp.

At the time, UNHCR Officer in Charge Madoda Leslie Nasha acknowledged that cases exist of children being harassed and subjected to domestic violence and abuse as a result of the encampment policy.

“Regrettably, there have been cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, transactional sex particularly for women and children, which has been exacerbated by the policy of encampment,” Nasha told Sunday Standard at the time, quickly adding that “where cases of abuse, rape and others occur, the Government has been responsive through interventions made by the Botswana Police Service as well as other Government Departments”.

Although government has expressed willingness to change the policy, there are others who contend that such a move might result in security related risks for refugees.

The US also state that “It was difficult for representatives of the diplomatic community to gain access to the camp”. The camp is believed to shelter over 800 refugees, mostly from eastern and central Africa, as well as an increasing number of African asylum applicants.

Among other things, the US expressed unease over the sluggish process for determining refugee status. “The system for granting refugee status was accessible but slow,” states the US. Although government has expressed willingness to change the policy, there are others who contend that such a move might result in security related risks for refugees.

Despite the strict encampment policy, the government sometimes issues refugees with residence permits to allow them permission to live outside of the camp for educational or medical purposes.

The UNHCR also believe it would be forward looking to amend the Refugee Act to include improved processes for determining refugee status, a reduction in arbitrary detention, and prevention of statelessness.

With regard to asylum seekers held at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants (FCII) detention facility, the US notes that “the government did not establish a protocol to prevent new arrivals from spending long periods in FCII while their cases were processed.” They also add that “there was no access to education for asylum seeker children in the FCII.”

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper