From ODIRILE TOTENG in Gaborone, Botswana
GABORONE – MORE than 900 Namibian refugees face an uncertain future amid fears Botswana would force them to return to their country after two decades in exile.
Already, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said it would no longer offer the refugees at the Dukwi Refugee Camp services such as food rations and access to medical treatment.
Human rights groups fear a real risk of persecution and other serious violations remains if the refugees, who include 400 children, are deported.
“These men, women and children should not be forced to return home if their personal safety cannot be guaranteed,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.
The activist said if Botswana forced people to return to Namibia, it would be breaching its international and national obligations.
“A lot is at stake here,” Mwananyanda said.
Thousands of people have fled the north-eastern Zambezi region, formerly the Caprivi strip, in Namibia since 1998.
They fled persecution following political tensions between the government and the secessionist group, the Caprivi Liberation Army.
The tension escalated with an armed attack launched by the CLA on government forces and buildings in 1999 in the Caprivi.
The government declared a state of emergency and detained more than 300 people on suspicion of participating in the attack.
In 2015, Botswana announced it had revoked the refugee status of Namibians.
The following year, the Botswana High Court ruled that Namibian refugees should not be repatriated until a legal case brought against the revocation order had been decided.
The judgment was upheld on appeal.
– CAJ News