The situation at the Dukwi Refugees camp is said to be back to normal following the reported heavy presence of the security officers in the last two weeks.
In the weeks leading to the deadline for voluntary repatriation of the Caprivi refugees, which was on July 11, 2018 it was reported that security officers, including the police were deployed at the camp and a curfew imposed on the refugees.
The refugees were facing deportation after many failed to register for voluntary repatriation to their native land of Namibia.
Following their refusal to register and trying many times to seek audience, including camping at Southern African Development Community (SADC) offices, some elders were detained while others sought court intervention.
In a follow up to this week’s court decision on interdicting government from repatriating the refugees, and ordering the release of those detained, logistics are reportedly being put in place to comply with the court order.
In an interview with one of the refugee leaders, Tyson Mujela, he said their attorney has informed them that the order had been sent to the relevant authorities to ensure compliance.
He explained that as it stands, it seems that the elders detained at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants (FCII) will be released soon.
“It is just a matter of logistics to make sure they are released and we are happy the court intervened on our behalf,” he said.
Mujela however said their desire to remain in the country by taking the government to court should not be taken as a fight against the government. He explained that at times they were caught in a compromising situation that they were forced to seek legal help.
“We cannot take the court’s intervention on our part as victory. We are just happy that Botswana respects the rule of law and separation of powers as displayed by the courts. Botswana has hosted and protected us and for that we will always be thankful,” he said.
On the situation at the camp, Mujela said they were happy that all has been normalised.
He said that since they approached court, the presence of security officers waned and that now they were no longer visible
Meanwhile, early this week Lobatse High Court Judge, Godfrey Nthomiwa ordered that the government should not deport 709 refugees who refused to sign for voluntary repatriation.
He ordered that pending a review application to be lodged by the refugees, no one should deport the refugees to Namibia or Caprivi Strip. “The respondents, or anyone purporting to act on their behalf, are hereby interdicted from deporting the applicants,” he said. The deadline for the repatriation was on July 11, 2018 of which those who did not sign to be repatriated were threatened with deportation in accordance with the Immigration Act. The judge also ordered that the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs should release from custody the refugees detained at the FCII and transport them back to Dukwi refugees’ camp.
The refugees, amongst them Felix Kakula, who led another court case in 2015 were arrested at the SADC offices last week when they tried to seek audience with the regional body over the forced repatriation process.
Furthermore, the judge said the refugees should not be repatriated until their reasons for fleeing no longer existed. He also ordered that the government comply with a 2016 judgement.
In that year, as Botswana pushed on one side and the Namibian government pulled on the other, the refugees secured relief when Lobatse High Court judge, Jennifer Dube ruled against the planned repatriation saying the government could not show that the refugees would be safe in Namibia.
The refugees, however, who are survivors of the bloody 1998/99 secessionist conflict in the Caprivi Strip, have resisted repatriation citing possible persecution by the Namibian government, which banned the party under which they fought two decades ago. The refugees do not recognise Namibia’s authority in the Caprivi Strip and say, rather, SADC should open a dialogue on the matter.