Zim refugees return from Botswana

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FRANCISTOWN-The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has resumed a voluntary repatriation programme for hundreds of Zimbabwean refugees who fled to Botswana from political persecution in the last decade.

OWN CORRESPONDENT

A number of Zimbabweans crossed the border into Botswana while running away from violence allegedly perpetrated on mostly Movement for Democratic Change supporters in Matabeleland.

This was at the height of political instability in 2008.

Refugees from Botswana’s neighbours are housed at Dukwi Refugee Camp along with others from Somalia, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo and Namibia.

Six years down the line, Mmegi has learnt that the Zimbabweans have actually started returning home.

“As at April 3, 15 Zimbabwean refugees had returned to their country of origin in the first four months of 2014,” confirmed Tina Ghelli, the senior regional external relations officer with UNHCR covering Southern Africa based in Pretoria, South Africa.

According to Ghelli, 986 Zimbabwean refugees are still living at Dukwi Refugee Camp and out of that number, 100 have so far registered for repatriation.

Ghelli said they only had enough money for the repatriation of the 15 who have already left Botswana.

UNHCR provides those expressing the willingness to be voluntarily sent home with financial assistance, she said.

Ghelli added that an adult is granted a $100 (about P900) while a minor is assisted with $50 (P450).

Ghelli said Zimbabwean refugees had individually approached the UNHCR office at Dukwi informing them of their wish to return to their country of origin.

Ghelli explained that the processing of assisting the return of the refugees with funds is called spontaneous facilitated repatriation. She said the repatriation happens on a voluntary basis.

The UN agency remains positive that more of the Zimbabwean refugees will come forward and volunteer to be returned home.

She said Zimbabwean refugees are offered one-to-one counselling where individual refugees can seek clarifications on voluntary repatriation.

The government of Botswana is reportedly working hand in glove with countries whose citizens are housed at Dukwi.

A couple of months ago, Defence, Security and Justice minister Dikgakgamatso Seretse jointly addressed the Namibian refugees with some officials from the Namibian government urging the refugees to return home.

Late last year, close to 400 Angolan refugees were voluntarily repatriated following revelations that the situation has stabilised in that country.

– Mmegi