Thirteen Namibian asylum seekers are languishing at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants where they have been held for years because the United Nations High Commission for Refugees can not find a country to resettle them.
Chief of Mission in Botswana, Roy Herrnann, confirmed this week that they have not yet found a place to resettle the 13 Namibians who have been languishing in the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants (CII) for years now.
Herrnann said the UNHCR is working around the clock to find a country willing to take them but currently there is no country that has accepted them.
”We are still working on this issue but, unfortunately, no country has yet agreed to take them; but we hope we will eventually find such a country,” he said.
The Sunday Standard had asked him to comment on whether he thinks it humane to keep the men incarcerated for such a long time.
Herrnann then refused to answer questions on the issue citing security reasons.
”I am sorry that is all I can tell you on this sensitive issue,” he said.
The Namibians first crossed into Botswana close to ten years ago after an alleged failed mutiny in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip.
After their arrival here, they were prosecuted for being in illegal possession of arms of war and sentenced to jail terms.
Afterwards, the Namibian government asked the Botswana government to repatriate them to Namibia to stand trial for alleged mutiny. A magistrate ruled that they could be repatriated and turned down submissions that repatriating them to Namibia would expose them to danger as they were likely to be tortured. This, the presiding Magistrate said, was the case because there was no evidence before the court to support submissions that they would be tortured .The ruling was, however, later overturned by the Court of Appeal, which ruled that there was sufficient evidence that if repatriated they would be tortured.
After the ruling, they were taken to the CII in Francistown where they are still languishing.
The government reportedly maintains that it is keeping them there for their own safety. Before then they were kept at Francistown’s Maximum Prison but were later transferred to the CII after various complaints from Human Rights organizations, amongst them one from Namibia which complained that it was inhuman to keep people incarcerated for such a long time.
The Namibian government has used every opportunity to persuade the Botswana government to repatriate the 13 Namibians but in vain.
Other Namibians who crossed into Botswana at around the same time are currently living peacefully in the Dukwi Refugee Camp.
The leader of the group, Meshack Munyuku, has long been repatriated to a Scandinavian country. Attempts to get a comment on the matter from the Botswana Human Rights Center, Ditshwanelo, were futile.