Saturday, September 19, 2020

Zimbabwean asylum seekers flood into Francistown

The city of Francistown is said to be overwhelmed by an influx of asylum seekers coming in from Zimbabwe. Information reaching The Sunday Standard indicates that the northern parts of Botswana are reeling under the burden of an influx of Zimbabwean asylum seekers who are flocking into Botswana to flee persecution and harassment by Zanu PF militias.

Most of the asylum seekers are poor farmers from rural areas who are fleeing persecution after they were accused of voting for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Close to 300 asylum seekers were by Friday housed at the Dukwi refugee camp after being transferred from the Francistown Center for Illegal Immigrants. Information reaching The Sunday Standard indicates that the centre is grappling with the escalating costs of feeding the asylum seekers who are flocking into Botswana through the Matsiloje, Maitengwe and Ramokgwebana borders. Media reports also state that the District Commissioner’s office has already depleted a grant of over P 200 000 from the office of the President which they used to cater for the needs of the asylum seekers at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants.

It has also emerged that most of the asylum seekers arrive at the center without basic necessities like clothes, blankets and toiletries. Already, facilities at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants are overstretched and tents have been pitched up to accommodate the increasing number of asylum seekers flocking into the centre. The situation is expected worsen as more asylum seekers are expected to arrive from temporary holding areas that have been set up in areas bordering Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, some Francistown residents have reported sightings of hundreds of Zimbabweans, among them elders and children, sleeping at the bus rank at night. Reports from Masunga also indicate that hundreds of asylum seekers are being housed at the Masunga stadium. Kgosi Maruje Masunga could not confirm or deny the reports, only asking to be given more time before he can make a formal statement as the issue is very sensitive.

The government of Botswana is also said to have raised complaints with the Zimbabwean embassy and the Southern African Development Community about the influx of Zimbabweans into the country. The Zimbabwean ambassador to Botswana is expected to visit the Dukwi refugee camp to analyze the situation for himself.

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