Gov't defies court


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Botswana is clueless about the deportation of two Ugandan refugees.

Musa Isabirye and Timothy Yamin were deported on October 25 following a prolonged scuffle with government over what the two termed the fight for refugee rights. Justice Lot Moroka of the Francistown High Court issued an order on October 23 that the two should not be deported pending the conclusion of their case.

The UNHCR regional office in South Africa, which oversees the Southern Africa region, expressed shock at the decision and doubted the authenticity of the case. The office spokesperson Tina Ghelli said she would have to inform herself first before making any comments.

“Could that be true we are not aware,” Ghelli said. “We will inform ourselves and respond accordingly.” Unfortunately, Ghelli had not responded at the time of going to the press.

Government and UNHCR relationship is important because they are partners in the affairs of the refugees. The UNHCR assists in the voluntary repatriation of refugees, local integration or resettlement to a third country. The sidestepping of the UNHCR therefore has left many wondering how serious Botswana government considers UN as a partner in development.

In September this year, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi pledged Botswana’s support to the United Nations and its programmes.

The Refugees Act clearly stipulates circumstances under which refugees could be ousted in the country and the government has evoked one of the clauses. The two refugees who once petitioned the UN and staged a sit in at the UN offices have had a long unresolved brawl with the government.

The government is of the view that they were troublesome, uncontrollable and violating the country’s encampment policy. The UN is advocating for the lifting of several reservations, which Botswana has made regarding the implementation of the International Refugee Law.

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