Botswana is poised to forcefully repatriate more than 700 refugees residing at the Dukwi refugee camp following a Court of Appeal decision that it is safe for them to return to Namibia.
In early August the refugees lost an appeal in which the government of Botswana seeks to forcefully repatriate them back to their country.
According to a document seen by Sunday Standard, senior officials from the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, a high level delegation will address the refugees on five September about their repatriation to their country of origin. The memo follows an address that the Director in the Ministry of Defence Justice and Security, Thobo Lethage and her delegation who recently addressed Namibians at the camp urging them to register for voluntary repatriation or face deportation.
Speaking in an interview with the Sunday Standard, the refugees’ spokesperson Felix Kakula conceded that they are no longer refugee as the Botswana Government de-recognised them in 2015 when it revoked a refugee cessation clause.
“The memo that we received recently informs us about our repatriation to Namibia. We are only waiting for the authorities to address us. Remember that we lost our refugee status in 2015. So on the grounds that we are illegal immigrants, the Court of Appeal ruled against us,” he said.
Kakula said that at the scheduled meeting they intend to inform Botswana authorities that as members of the United Democratic Party (UDP), they are not ready to return to Namibia. The party and its members agitated for the secession of the Zambezi Region (Caprivi Strip) from Namibia. They later fled from their homeland and settled at Dukwi Refugee Camp after being granted refugees status.
“As we speak, I can tell you that as members of the UDP we are not ready to return to Namibia and we will plead with the Botswana authorities to consider our request. But if the government of Namibia can assure us that we can return to that country as members of the UDP we will readily register for repatriation and no one will remain,” he said. Kakula added that “the two government believe that we are refusing to return to Namibia but that is not the case.”
Kakula wondered: “How will we return when our party has been banned in Namibia and some its members are currently languishing in jail. We are saying it is not safe to return to Namibia because that country’s government is not interested in dialogue.”
He further stated that “There are conditions need to be looked into before we can return. The conditions of clearance are not made clear to us. There is no written information about that; there is no undertaking by the Namibian government that we can return as members of UDP and will not be prosecuted.”
According to Kakula the Court of Appeal did not “address the fact that we are willing to go back to Namibia but we need the Namibian government to agree to peace talks with UNDP leadership.”
Amnesty International (AI) also appealed to the Botswana government to refrain from forcing refugees from Namibia back home.
Al’s deputy director for Southern Africa, Muleya Mwananyanda, was quoted as saying the Namibian refugees should not be forced to return home if their personal safety could not be guaranteed and if they may face human rights violations, which would breach international and national obligations under law.