Botswana ‘must not force Namibian refugees to back home’: AI

Rights group Amnesty International has urged the government of Botswana not to force any of the Caprivi refugees to return to their home country Namibia if there is “a risk of persecution”.

According to BBC, authorities in Botswana have said that they intend to go ahead with “repatriating displaced Namibian people, who originate from the Caprivi Strip”.

There had been a long standing agreement – facilitated by the United Nations refugee agency – for more than 3 000 Namibians, who fled the Caprivi Strip in the 1990s during a secessionist uprising, to stay as refugees in Botswana

The agreement, however, was expected to end on Wednesday.

In a statement, Amnesty international said that the develpment had left more than 900 refugees, including at least 400 children, who have never lived in Namibia, in limbo.

Amnesty international’s deputy director for Southern Africa, Muleya Mwananyanda, said that there was a lot at stake, and as a results the refugees should not be returned home if their safety could not be guaranteed.

“A lot is at stake here. If the government of Botswana forces people to return to Namibia where they may face human rights violations, it will be breaching its international and national obligations under law,” said Mwananyanda.

The rights group said it visited Botswana last month where some of the remaining refugees expressed fears to return back home.

The Namibian government has, however, indicated its willingness to welcome the remaining refugees, assuring them that they will be safe back home.

According to Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) the Zambezi governor, Alufea Sampofu, reassured the refugees that they were Namibian citizens and were, therefore free to come back home. But he warned them to “stay away from secessionism”.