Bots, Zim start refugee repatriations
Gaborone – Authorities in Gaborone and Harare have agreed to start the repatriation of Zimbabwean refugees who have been living in Botswana for more than 10 years.
The Director of Refugee Management and Welfare Ms Thobo Letlhage this week said the refugees would be repatriated after logistical arrangements had been finalised.
“The refugees have until 28 February 2021 to have registered for repatriation,” she said.
Ms Letlhage encouraged refugees to voluntarily register for repatriation. She said being a refugee was not a permanent status, and advised them to return to their home country as it had been established that it was safe to do so.
The majority of the refugees flocked into Botswana around 2008 at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis.
At a recent meeting with refugees, Ms Letlhage reportedly said failure to register for repatriation would result in them being stripped of their status, paving way for deportation.
“Through voluntary repatriation, the government will arrange buses to transport you and your belongings to Zimbabwe. Those who are registered with the camp clinic for prescribed medication will be given three-month’s supply … while settling back home,” she said.
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Botswana Batirashe Mukonoweshuro assured the refugees that they would not be victimised upon returning home, adding that it was President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s wish to see Zimbabweans who left in unfavourable circumstances resettling without problems.
“Those who opt to voluntarily repatriate will find (various) government officers at the reception centre in Plumtree waiting to assist them with documentation,” he said.
He thanked the Government of Botswana for hosting the Zimbabweans for more than a decade.
UNCHR Protect Officer Ms Olivia Mugambi reportedly said, “We have done a lot of research in the country of destination and we believe that the situation has significantly changed and is now conducive for return.”