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Botswana Urged To Stop Granting Asylum to Zimbabweans, Namibians

Some of the immigrants from Zimbabwe.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has urged Botswana to reconsider a stringent policy in screening refugees as asylum seekers from countries in conflict are rejected.

These remarks come at a time when refugees from neighboring countries like Namibia and Zimbabwe continue to enjoy space at the Dukwi Refugee Camp, when the situation in Botswana's fellow Southern African Development Community states is said to have drastically improved.

UNHCR regional representative, Veronica Irima Modey-Ebi, told a workshop to mark 50 years of refugee protection in Botswana that there are genuine cases from asylum seekers fleeing persecution in their respective countries.

The move she said, puts those who are deserving cases at a disadvantage and pleaded with Botswana, "as a stable country in the continent, to adopt a humane approach toward the institution of asylum with apt structures put in place to determine persons in genuine need of refuge."

Almost 720 Zimbabweans and a large number of Namibians continue to stay at the Dukwi Refugee Camp, even though there is no internal conflict, war or displacement.

Botswana's Minister of Defence and Security, Shaw Kgathi has already urged refugees, including those from fellow SADC countries, to return home, arguing the situation had normalized.

An analyst Albert Madlala said it is embarrassing for Botswana to house Zimbabwean and Namibian refugees, when the countries are neighbors and belong to the same economic and political bloc.

"How do leaders of these countries look at each other at SADC meetings? What is difficult with the Zimbabwean refugees legally entering Botswana as ordinary citizens and not asylum seekers? It should be an embarrassment to the Harare government," Madlala said.

The majority of Zimbabwean refugees fled to Botswana at the height of political tensions and persecutions in 2008.

Analysts argue it is embarrassing for a SADC member to house refugees from a fellow bloc member.