President Ian Khama may be targeting foreign national businessmen who are his competitors through arbitrary deportations.
This concern was registered by some MPs in parliament last week after it emerged that 21 foreign nationals were deported in 2016 after being declared prohibited immigrants.
“Our government needs to rethink the provision because it’s open for abuse, in the sense that the President is not obliged to say why he deported somebody and he is possibly using the provision to deport his potential business competitors. We have seen suspects being deported by the President without evidence on why they are seen as prohibited immigrants. Those gaps of potential abuse of the immigration act should be closed. The President is obliged to deport using immigration act section 41 (1) (c) which states that “a person who in consequence of information received from reliable source, is declared by the President to be a prohibited immigrant,” said Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse.
UDC Gaborone Central MP, Dr. Phenyo Butale, also echoed similar suspicions: “Is the provision not open for abuse, since we never know what security reasons are being referred to?” he asked.
The 21 immigrants deported comprise 1 Mauritius national, 2 Chinese, 3 Namibians, 5 Zimbabweans, 1 Bangladesh national, 5 Nigerians, 1 national of United States of America and 4 Swaziland nationals, according to the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs.
The Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs Edwin Batshu has however dismissed calls to review provisions for deportations, applications, work and residence permits by the president: “The provisions remain necessary for this state and I don’t think they should be reviewed. As to whether it has been abused or not, I am not able to comment on that, but I am confident that the deportations have been motivated by good information that the immigrants are undesirable,” he said.
Batshu said those whose applications were rejected failed assessment and security clearance. He said some were rejected on the basis of lack of skills, while some investors attempt to pursue businesses reserved for locals.
“Some will be turned down because they have been working in this country for a long time and transferred their skills to locals, as per employer’s targets while some applicants do not supply substantive information to support their applications,” he said.
Statistics released last week show that during the last 12 months, Batshu’s ministry received 5 909 applications for visa and 12 688 applications for residence and work permit. 772 visa applications were turned down while 2 040 residence and work permit applications were unsuccessful. 200 foreign nationals were also deported during the last 12 months, for committing crimes while in Botswana.