Concern over impact of Botswana’s appeal decision on ‘refugees’

Published: 14/Sep/2019
Source: Carmel Rickard (blog)

When Botswana’s Court of Appeal delivered its recent decision on 709 people from Caprivi, living in the Dukwi refugee camp, deep in Botswana and close to the border with Zimbabwe, the judgment came as a serious blow to the hopes of the refugees. It has also raised questions by the refugees and their supporters, local and international, about whether the court was correct in its approach. Less theoretically, the refugees are deeply concerned about the dangers that they believe await them once they are returned to Caprivi – something that now seems inevitable – as well as the impact on their children’s education.

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During the late 1990s, the Caprivi area in Northern Namibia exploded into violence. Caprivi, a narrow tongue of land stretching from Namibia across the northern border of Botswana, also adjoins the borders of Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The fighting involved Namibian soldiers and the rebel Caprivi Liberation Army, a secessionist group arguing that Caprivi does not form part of Namibia. Hundreds of people fled the area, some because they feared trial for treason, others because they were members of the pro-secessionist United Democratic Party, outlawed in Namibia. Yet others left because the whole region had become unstable and their families and property were at risk.



Apart from the politics, the refugees are deeply concerned about their children, born during the time they have been living in Dukwi. What is to be done about their nationality? If they were born in Botswana does this give them citizenship? And if so, can Botswana deport its own citizens, or the parents of child citizens of Botswana?

And what about their year-end exams that are now very close? Several children have already been taken from school, under escort of the Special Support Group (SSG). When questions were asked about who had taken them and why, Botswana’s ministry of defence, justice and security, said they were ‘withdrawn’ from school to join their parents, due to be deported from Botswana on 12 September (today).


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Themes: Acquisition by children, Nationality and Refugees, Statelessness
Regions: Botswana, Namibia
Year: 2019