Repatriation of Namibian refugees set to resume

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On course… Botswana Defense, Justice and Security Minister Shaw Ngathi, and Namibian Home Affairs Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana at Katima Mulilo.

Katima Mulilo

The governments of Botswana and Namibia are set to resume the repatriation of several hundred Namibian refugees holed up in Dukwe refugee camp in Botswana, New Era can reveal.

Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana met with a Botswana delegation led by Botswana’s Minister of Defense, Justice and Security, Shaw Ngathi, in Katima Mulilo yesterday to finalise modalities and logistics on how to resume the repatriation of refugees.

The two governments held an earlier meeting in Botswana in July and now deliberations have reached the final stage and the repatriation process is expected to resume soon.

The two governments previously set December 31, 2015 as the cut-off date for voluntary repatriation. However, their plans were scuppered after Namibian refugees in Botswana, lead by Felix Kakula, approached the Botswana High Court to issue an order for them not to be deported to Namibia. He claimed he would be persecuted by authorities in his motherland.

“New developments have since taken place and we are ready to resume the repatriation process. Last year the repatriation was disturbed, but following our meeting in July we are here to implement new measures on how to restart the repatriation process,” Ngathi said.

He noted that currently there are about 941 Namibian refugees in Dukwe, 680 male and 261 female, but only four have thus far shown any interest in voluntary repatriation. He said the four would soon be repatriated following the completion of some paperwork.
Iivula-Ithana stressed that the Botswana High Court’s interdiction of the repatriation process last year, which was based on the grounds that the repatriation process lacked the provision of security for the refugees should they return home, holds no water.

“Of course, you and I know very well that this is not true. It is on this ground that the two governments met on 12 July 2016 in Gaborone to look at the way forward in resuming discussions about the voluntary repatriation,” she said.

“We agreed to restart the process of tripartite discussions on the possible way forward, hence this meeting. So, our being here today is part of the implementation of such a decision,” she said.

Iivula-Ithana further said Namibian refugees are welcome to come home and there is nothing preventing them from doing so. She added that the majority of those in the refugee camp are young people, aged 25 years and younger, and are presumed innocent, as at the time of the secessionist rebellion in the then Caprivi Region (now Zambezi) they were still very young.

“It is, therefore, inconceivable that a democratic system of governance, such as we have in Namibia, would prosecute somebody who was at the time of the commission of the crime presumed unable to commit such crime,” she said.

At the time of filing this report the two ministers were still engaged in the finalisation of resolutions and logistics on the way forward, but promised to issue a joint statement late yesterday.

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