Tuesday, October 20, 2020

More than 100 Batswana who served in the British army stuck in the UK

More than 100 Batswana who served with the British armed forces are stuck in the United Kingdom afraid to come home where they are likely to face prison terms under the country’s Foreign Enlistment Act ÔÇô Sunday Standard investigations have revealed.

Investigations have revealed that about 120 Botswana citizens joined the British armed forces and served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars following the manning crisis in the British army which prompted a loosening of the rules.

The group which has more battle time than most Botswana Defence Force soldiers was recently forced to band together into an unofficial organisation after the Botswana High Commission in the United Kingdom slipped notes under their doors warning them that they are in violation of the country’s Foreign Enlistment Act.

Recruits from Commonwealth countries including Botswana have a long and distinguished history of serving in the British Armed Forces. During the First World War, Batswana served alongside the Allies who ultimately won the war.

In a bid to curb mercenary activities, the government of Botswana introduced the Foreign Enlistment Act which bans Batswana from serving in foreign armies unless given permission by the President.

The issue of Batswana who are serving in the British armed forces first came to light a few years ago following a controversy over a decision by the British Home Secretary to deport a British Botswana soldier because of a speeding conviction.

Botswana’s Sapper Poloko Hiri, 36 who has served four years with the British armed forces had his application for citizenship refused by the UK Border Agency sparking an outcry in the British media.

The British High Court however ruled that the decision to deport Hiri was legally flawed, and ordered the home secretary, Theresa May, to reconsider her decision in accordance with the law.

Hiri was convicted after being filmed on a traffic camera in 2011 travelling at 81mph in an area where there was a temporary 50mph speed limit. He was driving on the M1 near Swinford, Leicestershire, at 1.21am after leaving Ripon barracks, North Yorkshire, to begin Easter leave.

In his court papers, Hiri disclosed that he feared prosecution and lengthy imprisonment in Botswana under the foreign enlistment act, which makes it a criminal offence to act in the military service of another country.

It has since emerged that there are about 120 Botswana nationals serving in the British army who cannot come home because the fear prosecution under the Act. At some stage, the 120 Batswana serving in the British army tried to united and find themselves a lawyer who would fight their case against the Botswana government. At the time of going to press, Sunday Standard had not established how far they are with their legal action.

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