Botswana government has reiterated its stance that refugees at Dukwi Refugees Camp should return to their countries of origin.
Currently Botswana hosts a total of 2135 recognized refugees from African countries such as Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, Somalia and Zimbabwe.
Speaking during the commemoration of the World Refugee Day in Dukwi village last week Assistant Minister of Sports Empowerment, Youth and Culture Development, Philip Makgalemele said the government of Botswana is resolute in its belief that the best durable solution for refugees is to return to their home countries.
“To this end refugees are encouraged and shall be facilitated to return to their countries of origin in safety and dignity whenever it is safe to do so. It is on this note that I wish to acknowledge and appreciate the support of the government of Namibia and UNHCR in implementing the Tripartite Agreement which provides the legal frame work for the return home of Namibians who have been residing in Dukwi,” he said.
He expressed pleasure that under the auspices of this Agreement, refugees have been returning home and added that he remained confident that they will continue to do so voluntarily. Makgalemele said that a number of milestones have been achieved and have helped to create a conducive environment for the refugee population in Botswana. Among others he said under HIV treatment, Care and Support; the United States President Emergency Funds for Aids Relief (PEPFAR, funds a full ARV clinic.
“We are also happy that this funding will be extended up to much 2019 when the government assumes full responsibility of administering these services to the refugee population. This means refugees have free access to all programmes such as Highly Active Anti-Retro Treatment (HAART), Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) Safe Male Circumcision (SMC) and Tuberculosis,” he said.
The junior Minister also said in Botswana, refugees also have free basic education up to senior secondary schools. He said Dukwi Primary School continues to register impressive results, and the same students do well at secondary school. He added that through a partnership with Skillshare International Botswana, some private institutions and government vocational schools continue to offer refugee children scholarship at tertiary levels.
“To ensure registration of vital statistics and compliance with 1954 and 1961 United Nations Convention on stateliness, all refugees in the country are registered; this covers registration of all births and deaths of all refugees occurring within the country,” he said.
Makgalemele however, said there is a number challenges such as poor adherence to medication by some patient refugees attributed to abuse of alcohol. He also explained that there are some refugees who deliberately flout laws of Botswana and policies governing the refugee programme in this country. He further said there are refugees who are in the habit of making public attacks and political statements on the government of Botswana or their countries of origin through the media.
“I wish to warn those involved and remind them to desist from such behavior since it runs counter to the conditions of stay in the host country. We urge you to channel your grievances through the Welfare Committees and the office of the Settlement Commandant,” he said.
Among other important issues the assistant minister who is responsible for empowerment of youth said it is common cause that the youth comprise a good number of the refugee population in Dukwi. He urged them to take advantage of available education and vocational programmes to secure a future for themselves to enable them to contribute to the prosperity of their countries when conditions are right for their safe return home.
The Commemoration of the World Refugee Day was held under the theme” “#with refugees.”