Govt Appeals for Refugee Integration Amid Calls for Policy Reform


  • Ditshwanelo calls for reforms to improve refugees welfare


The Minister of Justice, Machana Shamukuni, has urged refugees in Botswana to consider local integration as a viable option.

Speaking at the Dukwi Refugee Camp to commemorate World Refugee Day that falls on 20 June, Shamukuni stated: “Despite the government’s efforts to support refugee communities, the Ministry of Justice has reported a surprisingly low number of applications from refugees seeking to integrate into local society.”

Local and int’l commitments

Botswana acceded to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol in 1969, ratified the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa in 1995, and acceded to the 1954 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons in 1969.

In alignment with these commitments, the government enacted the Refugee (Recognition and Control) Act of 1968. However, inspite of these steps taken, Ditshwanelo says “the Act has not seen significant reforms since its inception”.

Established in 1978 approximately 126 kilometres west of Francistown, the Dukwi Refugee Camp has been a central part of Botswana’s refugee support system, providing food, accommodation and basic medical care.

Comprehensive review

However, Ditshwanelo has raised concerns about the need for renovations to ensure adequate housing for the refugees who live there.

In a statement released to commemorate World Refugee Day Botswana’s leading human rights organisation emphasised that refugee children attend local primary and secondary schools alongside Batswana children, receiving free education, which is a testament to Botswana’s inclusive policies.

Nevertheless, Ditshwanelo has called for a comprehensive review of the Refugee (Recognition and Control) Act of 1968 to include specific provisions that address the broader needs of refugees.

Welcome, safe and secure 

“We urge the Government of Botswana to ensure a comprehensive review of the Refugee (Recognition and Control) Act of 1968 and to include specific provisions relating to the rights of refugees in order to ensure their enhanced protection within our society,” it said in the statement.

Ditshwanelo added that this would help “to create an environment where refugees feel welcome, safe and secure”.

In its current form, the law primarily recognises political refugees but many people flee their countries for reasons other than political persecution, among them severe economic conditions.

Essential services for refugees

Ditshwanelo therefore called for broader criteria to reflect the diverse reasons for which people seek asylum. It also called on the government to work closely with civil society and international organisations to improve essential services for refugees.

The services include enhanced healthcare, counselling and legal support, which Ditshwanelo described as “crucial” for the well-being and integration of refugees into society.