Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Gov’t to appeal High Court decision to free asylum seekers

The Botswana Government intends to appeal a case in which the High Court had instructed the state to transport and accommodate hundreds of asylum seekers at the Dukwi Refugee Camp. 
Lawyer, Morgan Moseki of MCM Attorneys has confirmed to this publication that the Attorney General (AG) has served him with a statutory notice notifying him of its intention to appeal.

Francistown High Court’s Justice Phadi Solomon had ordered that the asylum seekers who had been detained at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants (FCII) should be transported to the Dukwi refugee camp by or before the 21st of July 2017.

More than 250 refugees have been awaiting their transportation to Dukwi since last week Friday, only to learn that the very government they seek refuge and security from has turned out to be no different from the same political regimes they fled from back home.

“I saw this coming, I knew that the AG was tip toeing around the order given by the court. They have just served an appeal on the decision made by the judge but that does not in any way mean the petitioners should not be transported to Dukwi. This means that they are in contempt of court and I am submitting an urgent application first thing tomorrow morning,” said Moseki.

He said only 60 petitioners have since been transported meaning that the AG has failed to comply with the court order and they will have to answer to that.

These refugees have been unlawfully detained at the Francistown Centre for Illegal since 2015. Justice Solomon had ordered them to be taken to Dukwi after a marathon to and from between the Attorney General who is representing the Director of Immigration and Citizenship, Officer Commanding Botswana Prison Service and the Officer Commanding the FCII and Moseki who is representing the refugees.

The refugees had sought assistance from Moseki as they complained about callous conditions where they had been detained.

On June 1 2017, the foreigners petitioned the state to show cause why an order should not be issued declaring that the petitioners and their dependents’ continued detention at FCII beyond 28 days since being taken into custody should not be declared unlawful.

The petitioners who come from different countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Somalia, Namibia and Zimbabwe have been kept at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants since 2015 with their young children. They fled to Botswana because of the volatile political climate in their respective countries.

The petitioners also wanted the Attorney General (AG) to show cause why they should not be ordered to return the petitioners to their respective countries against their will where they may be liable to be subjected to persecution.

 This came after Judge Lot Moroka, found their detention by the Department of Prisons unlawful in May, 2017.

When giving his judgment Judge Moroka said, “It was determined that the petitioners shall be taken to Dukwi Refugee Camp. The state argued that would not be appropriate because they are not recognized refugees. The right to personal liberty is sacrosanct. In resolving where they should stay pending removal, I lean in favor of enhancing not diminishing personal liberties,” Moroka said.

He added: “No prejudice would be suffered by the respondent in placing them at the Dukwi Refugee Camp pending removal. They should strictly be confined to the Camp. Their detention at FCII is declared unlawful and they shall be released from detention forthwith.”

The asylum seekers have been living in appalling conditions at the FCII, where they stay and sleep on an open field during the cold, hostile winter nights with their infant children. They have been subjected to mix and mingle with prisoners who are detained for criminal offences.

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