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UNHCR ok as Canada backtracks on repatriated Namibian refugees

Caprivians outside SADC headquarters. PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
FRANCISTOWN: The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) chief of mission in Botswana, Arvind Gupta has said that the organisation acted fittingly by not processing the paper work of some Namibians from the Caprivi Strip who were supposed to go for resettlement in Canada.

Canada had officially accepted to take some of the Namibians from the Caprivi Strip on resettlement. Amongst them were Tyson Mujela and his family who were forcibly sent to Namibia a week ago. Mujela has been amongst those who strongly opposed the forced repatriation to Namibia by Botswana.

Gupta told Mmegi that the organisation could not proceed with the facilitation of resettlement papers for some Namibians from the Caprivi Strip since they were being sent back home. He added that almost all the said Namibians were not in need of serious protection hence they could not be offered an opportunity for resettlement.

“You will have to understand that the Namibians from the Caprivi Strip lost their refugee status in Botswana in December 2015. We (UNCHR), however, continued processing their resettlement applications until recently in order to ease the burden (of hosting them) from Botswana.”

“When the government of Botswana took a concrete decision to deport them (recently), as they were illegal immigrants, that is when we decided to halt processing their papers for resettlement. We could not continue with processing their resettlement when deportation proceedings were underway,” he said.

In June this year, the court ruled in favour of the government of Botswana after the Attorney General appealed a decision of the High Court in which Tyson Mujela and 800 Namibian refugees had interdicted the Gaborone authorities against deporting them. The Namibians felt it was not safe for them to return to their own country.

The June court ruling paved the way for forced repatriation of the Namibians from the Caprivi Strip, which was completed this week.


reaction comes just days after a Canadian non-profit society called the Summerland Refugee Sponsorship Group, based in the town of Summerland, expressed disappointment at the decision to forcibly deport some Namibians who were supposed to be processed for resettlement in Canada.

Summerland is a group of about 130 residents who work on a volunteer basis to sponsor refugees from around the world and help them resettle within their community. Amongst others, Summerland had promised to host Mujela and his family in Canada.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Defence Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi said some Namibians from the Caprivi Strip have not been repatriated and will be offered resettlement.

“There are about five Namibians from the Caprivi Strip who have been cleared by the UN to go for resettlement. They have not been deported because we are still facilitating for their resettlement,” Kgathi said without offering names. The five people who will reportedly go for resettlement are Felix Kakula, Nervous Lutambo, Richard Mosupali, Mikini Smith and Gasper Machana.

It has been widely said that the five men were wanted by Namibia for treason-related offences that happened during the 1998 disturbances. At the time, Namibians from the Caprivi Strip wanted total independence from Namibia. The 1998 disturbances led to many Namibians from the Caprivi Strip fleeing to Botswana to seek refugee. 

Gupta said that he would not confirm nor deny that the five men who are said to be in detention at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants will go on resettlement.

“For now you will have to talk to the Botswana or Namibian government about the issue.”




A luta continua

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