Sources within the anti-poaching campaign say a number of suspected poachers caught with elephant tusks will be thrown out of the country by the end of business today. The operation, which insiders say remains close to the President's personal attention, brings together the Wildlife Department's Anti-Poaching Unit, the Police, Botswana Defence Force and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS).
Recent policy change in which suspects are immediately deported has put the spotlight on the law enforcement sector and the role of the Office of the President. Recently Botswana has been hit by deportations with both citizens and suspects concerned about the summary deportation of residents, motivated by the security apparatus. Last year the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Edwin Batshu told a press conference that his ministry used P1,355,713.80 to deport 318 prohibited immigrants since January the same year.
He said P818,440.09 was spent in repatriating illegal immigrants. Batshu explained that a person can be declared a prohibited immigrant on conviction by a court of law. He added that security organs can also advise the president to declare one a prohibited immigrant.It is these deportations which have brought condemnation from the legal fraternity and human rights advocates. This week's deportations, critics say, are only a tip of the iceberg.
Many believe the State deports many more residents through the secretive security apparatus programme than it is revealed. Batshu last year said the prohibited immigrants came from Zimbabwe (260), India (16), South Africa (11), Kenya (4), Zambia (3), Tanzania (2), Nigeria (5), China (5), Mozambique (1), Uganda (2), Egypt (2), Sri Lanka (1), Bangladesh (5), Lesotho (1) and Pakistan (1). Batshu further denied allegations that more than 300 Nigerians were declared prohibited immigrants in a short period of time.
The 15 believed to have been served with deportation orders from the OP are believed to include Chinese, Nigerians, Indians and Kenyans. Khama, who is said to have a personal interest in the anti-poaching campaign is said to be willing to use his executive powers to deport residents suspected of being involved in criminal activities especially poaching.
The involvement of the DIS in anti-poaching has not only brought a certain urgency to the campaign but critics within the security sector says, it has also brought an urgency to take shortcut decisions such as the summary deportation of residents suspects. Amidst summary deportations of foreign nationals lie the country's international image and her relations with the international community. Botswana is known for her peace, stability and warm reception to foreigners. However, in recent times Botswana has drawn attention for her treatment of foreign nationals living within her borders.
Questions have been asked regarding the treatment of foreign nationals suspected of having been caught on the wrong side of the law. Why the DIS prefers to have suspected foreign criminals declared prohibited immigrants is a question that was revisited this week after two Chinese nationals were kicked out of the country.
Concerns have been raised regarding the deportation of suspects before the judicial process can take its course.Last year, the Botswana Chinese Chamber of Business Association's Bing Liu complained about the treatment of seven Chinese who were rounded up by DIS agents and detained for several days before being deported.
Liu said the Chinese nationals were informed that the President had declared them prohibited immigrants and were told to wind up their businesses in seven days. He said to give them a few days to wrap up their businesses after staying in Botswana for many years was unfair and insensitive. Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation have dismissed concerns that the deportations can cause a diplomatic standoff.
Monei Rapuleng said the deportations are done in accordance with the law which is binding on every national living in the country. "Every country that we have diplomatic relations and have citizens living in our country are guided by our laws," Rapuleng said.
Government spokesperson Dr Jeff Ramsay said it is the responsibility of the foreign nationals living in the country to abide by the laws of the host country. He finds nothing wrong in persons being declared prohibited immigrants while the judicial process is ongoing.
Ramsay stressed that declaring an individual an unwanted person is practised the world over and cannot affect how countries involved relate. He could not confirm nor deny reports that over 15 people of different nationalities were declared prohibited immigrants just this week.
"I am currently on leave and only heard of one or two people declared prohibited immigrants through the media," Ramsay said.