Source: Amnesty International
Botswana’s authorities should not force any of the Caprivi refugees to return to their home country Namibia, if a real risk remains that they would face persecution or other serious human rights violations, Amnesty International said as the deadline for their voluntary repatriation expired today.
More than 900 refugees, including at least 400 children who have never lived in Namibia, have been left in limbo after they were told by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) that they would no longer receive services such as food rations and access to medical treatment at the Dukwi Refugee Camp where they have been living for almost two decades.
“These men, women and children should not be forced to return home if their personal safety cannot be guaranteed,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.
“A lot is at stake here, if the government of Botswana forces people to return to Namibia where they may face human rights violations, it will be breaching its international and national obligations under law.”
This is not the first time Botswana has tried to repatriate refugees. In 2015, the Botswana government announced that it had revoked the refugee status of Namibians. Later in January 2016, the Botswana High Court ruled that Namibian refugees should not be repatriated until a legal case brought against the revocation order had been decided. This judgement was upheld on appeal in March 2016 on the grounds that the Ministry of Defense, Justice and Security had an obligation to ensure the safe return of the applicants.
Amnesty International is also aware of another 16 former refugees, part of the initial group to flee the country, who have not received clearance from the Namibian government to return. This means that if they go back to Namibia they will be “illegal immigrants” and will be detained in the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants, and their future becomes uncertain. Amnesty International is concerned that this may result in statelessness, as well as the separation of families.