FRANCISTOWN: Botswana is flagrantly violating its international obligations toward refugees, an attorney representing the refugees has stated.
Counsel Morgan Moseki has recently represented scores of rejected asylum seekers, awaiting asylum seekers, former refugees declared prohibited immigrants and their innocent school-going children after some of them were perpetually kept in detention at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants (FCII).
Since their lengthy incarceration at the FCII, their custodians have not furnished them with any reasons for their detention. The refugees recently prevailed against Government over their illegal detention at the FCII.
On April 13, Justice Zibani Makhwade ordered that Juma Mlawa, Idi Ally, Reuben Chamba, Clerpaton Mathema, Mohamed Mire, Salad Sabriye and Amina Adan Hirsi be released from the detention centre as their detention was unlawful.
The petitioners had brought their different cases before Makhwade, but in all of them, the Judge ordered they be released from the FCII with immediate effect, ordering the State to pay the costs of the petitioners’ urgent applications.
On Tuesday, Moseki expressed concern that the Department of Immigration, which is the custodian of all the refugees in their various stages of applying to be granted such status, is on a mission to deliberately disobey the Court order delivered by Makhwade.
The State for reasons known to itself, Moseki said, dillydallied and released the petitioners stated above from the FCII on April 13 at around 7pm and 8pm.
“In doing so, the State violated one of the prison rules, which binds it not to release prisoners at night. Upon their release from the FCII, the refugees were placed outside of the FCII gates at Gerald Estate in a bushy area, where there is no regular public transport, especially at night,” Moseki said.
The refugees, however, managed to find their way to Dukwi Refugee Camp that night without being given an opportunity to be heard, Moseki said.
“In the morning at Dukwi, they went to the Settlement Commandant asking to be given food and to be registered, but their requests were denied. Up to now, they have not been given any rations.
These food rations are from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), which then gives the food to the Red Cross to distribute to refugees and not the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security,” Moseki said.
The deliberate withholding of food to the refugees, Moseki noted, is a ploy by the State to exercise authority it does not have. “Bad men and women are running the good name of our beautiful country into the mud blindly.
In any event, even if the food belonged or was from the State, the Ministry of Defence has a primary responsibility of providing these vulnerable people with food without venting their misplaced anger on them,” a worried Moseki said.
Moseki stated that on April 24, 2017 he learnt that two Somalis who were released by Makhwade on April 13, have been detained again at the FCII contrary to Makhwade’s order.
“This is contempt of Court of a magnitude not known in Botswana. The State has not even attempted to make an application to vary Makhwade’s order or have it set aside by way of an appeal, but nonetheless they have proceeded to exercise extra-judicial authority to detain vulnerable people in a place where they were ordered not to,” Moseki said.
He added that he was going to consult his clients at the FCII, and then make an urgent application for their release.
“I will also pray for an order for the imprisonment for six months of whoever gave an order for my clients to be unlawfully detained…I am also going to file a report to the UNHCHR to request that the refugees should be given their food rations,” Moseki said.
Other refugees incarcerated at FCII have similar cases that are handled by different judges of the Francistown High Court, Moseki said.