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PEPFAR ceases ARV financing for refugees

MPHO MOKWAPE
The Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security says it is faced with dilemma to source funds for the provision of Antiretroviral drugs to refugees as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) cease its finance.

PEPFAR is an initiative started in 2013 by the then US president, George Bush. It is president’s emergency plan that was designed to address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and help save the lives of those suffering from the disease, primarily in Africa. The programme has provided antiretroviral treatment (ART) to over 7.7 million HIV-infected people in resource-limited settings and supported HIV testing and counseling for more than 56.7 million people as of 2014.

Yesterday, the ministry’s permanent secretary, Segakweng Tsiane confirmed before the Public Accounts Committee that as of March 2019, PEPFAR would no longer provide finance for the treatment of refugees, leaving the ministry in limbo.

Tsiane said they are faced with sourcing out the funds so as to continue with treatment for the refugees. “We have a problem; we are faced with sourcing out funds for the ARV’s. Next year there will be no funding from our main source,” he said. More on the refugees management, Tsiane said they do have a problem with the Namibian refugees who according them are no longer asylum seekers.

Tsiane said the refugees who are detained at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants are refusing to be repatriated despite no longer having refugee status.

“They are no longer refugees as per the 2015 court order, but they have raised a number of issues which are before courts,” she said.

She explained the Namibian refugees from the Caprivi have raised issues that are political, as they want cessation and independence from Namibia. As such, she said it was issue for them and the Namibians to

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engage and deal with it internally.Tsiane said the government only took the decision for repatriation after they were no longer recognised as refugees not only in the country but the world over.

“The Namibians the world over are not recognised as refugees and most have opted for voluntary repatriation, the few that are refusing to leave have raised political issues that have nothing to do with us,” she said.

She further explained that those at the centre are not refugees but those that have been rejected from being given asylum.

Furthermore, she said there were about 305 detained together with children that at the moment are not schooling.

A member of the committee, Dithapelo Keorapetse had earlier put it to ministry officials about the way refugees are treated in the country.

He explained that the government was not observing international treaties as the way refugees are treated leaves a lot to be desired.

“The government have been portraying itself as the champion for human rights, but the treatment of refugees is worse. There are allegations of children in detention, no separation of men and women resulting in abuse of women and the environment is not conducive at all,” he said.

Tsiane in response admitted that there were concerns but not as escalated as it was reported.

On the re-integration of the refugees, she mentioned that none of the refugees opted for that. Committee member, Polson Majaga had wanted to know why there was such provision for the Namibians since it was done for the Angolans.



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