- Disappointed with govt’s handling of the asylum seekers case
- UN refugee agency undertakes to feed asylum seekers if govt doesn’t want to
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed disappointment with the government’s recent hard-line stance on asylum seekers saying ‘the detention of asylum-seekers and refugees has serious and lasting effects on individuals and families.’
The asylum seekers were recently freed from Francistown detention centre for illegal immigrants which is under Prisons department after a court application by human rights lawyer, Morgan Moseki. The government ‘s move to lock the Asylum seekers in prison is a contravention of the UN refugee agency’s policy on forced displacements.
Responding to this publication on their view on how the government treated the asylum seekers case, UNHCR Senior Regional Spokesperson, Markku Aikomus, said they are disappointed with how the government handled the issue further adding that they are totally against imprisonment of refugees and asylum seekers as remedy to forced displacement.
“UNHCR believes that camps should be the exception and only a temporary measure in response to forced displacement. The possible alternatives are diverse and affected by factors such as culture, legislation and national policies. If camps are unavoidable, the inhabitants should have links with the host communities. Refugees and asylum-seekers bring personal skills and assets which can benefit the communities where they are living. Please see UNHCR policy on alternatives to camps for more information,” he said
The UNHCR Spokesperson continued that “the detention of asylum-seekers and refugees has serious and lasting effects on individuals and families. UNHCR is concerned about the use of immigration detention, particularly of children.”
He continued that “UNHCR’s Global Strategy Beyond Detention (2014 -2019) supports governments to make the detention of asylum-seekers an exceptional rather than routine practice.” Under this global strategy, UNHCR will work with governments, international and national non-governmental organizations and other relevant stakeholders to address some of the main challenges and concerns around governmental detention policies and practices.
The three main goals of the strategy are to end the detention of children, ensure that alternatives to detention are available in law and implemented in practice and ensure that conditions of detention where detention is necessary and unavoidable meet international standards by, inter alia, securing access to places of immigration detention for UNHCR and our partners and carrying out regular monitoring.
Asked to clarify the shortage of food claims raised by the government as justification for their hostile treatment of asylum seekers, Aikomus said it is not true that there was shortage because UNHCR had pledged to support them by all means possible.
“UNHCR has informed the Government of Botswana its willingness to provide assistance including food to those asylum seekers currently detained at the Centre for illegal Immigrants in Francistown upon their release to Dukwi Refugee Camp,” replied the UNHCR spokesperson.
In Botswana, he said, UNHCR advocates that all asylum-seekers should be released from the Centre for illegal Immigrants in Francistown to Dukwi Refugee Camp while the competent authority will undertake refugee status determination to determine whether these persons seeking international protection are considered as refugees under international, regional or national law.
Meanwhile government officials were seen huffing and puffing on Friday in the last minute efforts to comply with Justice Phadi Solomon ‘s court order that over 160 rejected asylum seekers together with their over 200 dependents be released from the Francistown Centre for illegal immigrants. The government had refused to honour the judgement claiming shortage of ablutions and food at the Dukwi refugee camp where the asylum seekers are currently camping. The government’s hostile treatment of refugees is not new as there has been many battles involving the state and the refugees before.