The British government has warned that Botswana citizens will need visas to visit the UK, unless the Botswana government “significantly reduces” the risk posed by Batswana.
Botswana is listed among 11 countries: Brazil, Namibia, South Africa, Malaysia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Lesotho, Mauritius, Swaziland, and Trinidad and Tobago that have been warned to address the risk they pose.
The BBC quoted a Home Office report, which identifies bogus passports, criminal acts and terrorism as possible risks posed by visitors.
It says the new visa requirements could become law by early 2009.
It is believed Botswana is being targeted because of widespread passport fraud and suspicions of being used as a conduit for human trafficking. A number of foreign nationals have recently been arrested around the world traveling on forged or stolen Botswana passports.
The Philippines Bureau of Immigration recently arrested a Motswana suspected of being involved in human trafficking. The BI last April 26, arrested Peter Lucky, identified as a citizen of Botswana, for possession of spurious and fake travel documents in the departure area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport 2 where he was to board a Philippine Airlines flight to Vancouver.
The Motswana citizen was kicked out of the country a few hours after his arrest. He was sent back to Kuala Lumpur. He is now on the black list of undesirable aliens and cannot re-enter the Philippines. He is suspected of being part of an international human trafficking ring.
Recently, more than a hundred suspects, including local Asian businessmen, police officers and labour consultants, were being investigated in a Diamond and Narcotics Squad (DNS) probe targeting a large-scale human trafficking network in Botswana.
The suspects were believed to be part of an organised smuggling ring that has been trafficking illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan into Botswana and neighbouring South Africa, which has also been targeted for Visa restrictions.
The police operation is understood to have broken a number of organized cells which had been using Botswana as a destination and transit for trafficked persons.
Assistant Commissioner of Police and Deputy Director Criminal Investigations Department, Mathews Maduwane, earlier this year told Sunday Standard that they had interviewed close to 100 suspects, including police officers, labour consultants and Asian businessmen some of whom are Botswana citizens suspected of trafficking illegal immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The BBC quoted the British Border and Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, saying: “We need to decide how to widen the visa net. We cannot and will not shy away from going wider and will, whenever we think there is a risk to the UK.”
He said the government will now “work with” the countries over the next six months in an effort to reduce the risks.
“If they are able to show evidence of change then there will be no need to introduce a visa regime,” said Mr Byrne.
The criteria for the Home Office’s Visa Waiver Test included looking at passport security and integrity, the degree of co-operation over deportation or the removal of a country’s nationals from the UK.
Levels of illegal working in the UK and other immigration abuses, levels of crime and the risk of a visitor committing a terrorist act were also considered.
South Africa, on the other hand, was targeted because of fears that it is being used as a transit point by al-Qaeda operatives to gain easy entry to the UK.
The British Government is also concerned that the country is being used by people smugglers to bring non-South Africans into the UK.
Ministers have serious concerns about the ability of non-South Africans to acquire South African passports, a concern that has been heightened by the steady flow of people fleeing the turmoil in Zimbabwe.