Even though rejected asylum seekers fled to the north and others to the western of the country, the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security is adamant that they were not pushed out by mistreatment at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants (FCII).
Recently government won a case at Court of Appeal (CoA) disputing the court’s decision of asylum seekers relocating to Dukwi refugee camp. Following government’s victory, asylum seekers fled the country, in what now is alleged to be fear for their lives at FCII where they were supposed to be relocated.
It is reported that close to 200 asylum seekers have found refuge in Zimbabwe and about 100 are in Namibia. There were reports that the asylum seekers feared for their lives at the centre where they were allegedly suffering abuse at the hands of prison officials.
However, contrary to the reports, the ministry’s permanent secretary, Segakweng Tsiane, who was yet to confirm how many of the asylum seekers have fled, was adamant that the asylum seekers were not physically abused as has been alleged.
Despite the fact that the asylum seekers have fled the country, Tsiane told a media briefing yesterday that government is in the process of relocating them from Dukwi to FCII.
“Those people were not granted refugee status, hence are still being considered as illegal immigrants. We are making preparations to take them back to FCII because Dukwi refugee camp is for recognised refugees. We heard of allegations that some of them have fled the country with others having crossed to neighbouring countries, but (we are) yet to establish how many of them have fled and where to,” Tsiane said.
She said that the asylum seekers were not forced out of the camp, but just left without government’s knowledge. She went on to dismiss allegations that the government obstructed their departure because they voluntarily moved out.
“UNHCR is always there. If they were assaulted as they claim they would have been noticed. Yes, the centre shares the same campus with prison, but they are not regarded as prisoners despite sharing the same facility. They do not sleep in the cell (blocks) like prisoners (do), but we provide them with tents,” Tsiane said.
She said in July 2017 the government met with a delegation from DRC who also visited and interviewed them from the camp on how they repatriate rejected asylum seekers back home.
Tsiane, however, admitted to be faced with challenges relating to asylum seekers from far countries like DRC where they do not have networks, as compared to SADC countries hence the delay of their repatriations.
“We have in the past hosted Zimbabweans, Namibians, South Africans who have since returned home, but for countries as far as DRC and Rwanda it takes a bit of time,” Tsiane said.
The media challenged the ministry asking why they claim not to be aware that the rejected asylum seekers fled the country with some of them already being granted refugee status in Namibia. The journalists went on to challenge Tsiane why she claimed that asylum seekers were not assaulted whilst they had medical records verifying that indeed they were.
The media also challenged government on the long processes it takes to grant asylum seekers refugee status and further took on government on claims of xenophobia.