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Botswana Begins Deportations of Refugees from Namibia

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On September 17, 94 Namibian refugees were deported from Botswana. A total of 852 Namibian nationals who fled to Botswana in 1999 have refused to voluntarily repatriate and are set to be forcibly returned.

The more than 800 refugees are set to be forcibly returned after an agreement was reached between the governments of Botswana and Namibia. They are the remaining group of an original 2,400 Namibians who fled to Botswana in 1999 following an attempt to secede the Caprivi Strip from Namibia 20 years ago. According to their spokesperson Felix Kakula they have refused to return voluntarily out of fear of persecution: “At the event that we are deported back to Namibia, they should inform the Namibian government that people who are being deported are members of the United Democratic Party, such that they should open their prisons and lock us in, because we are not going to keep quiet when we are there”.

Director of refugee management and welfare Thobo Letlhage, refers to the agreement between the two countries as a tripartite agreement signed also by the UNHCR and states: “Being a refugee is not a permanent status. So, when the conditions are conducive for refugees to return to their native countries, it is advisable for them to do so”.

The Botswana Centre for Human Rights urges authorities to enter into dialogue with the refugees stating: “The Caprivians (former refugees) have been repeatedly requesting mediated constructive dialogue with the Government of Namibia. It is clear that there is a lack of trust between the parties.”

The refugees have been living under modest conditions in the Dukwi Refugee Camp 530 km northwest of Botswana’s capital, Gaborone for almost 20 years.