A group of children as young as three years reportedly from the Swahili and French speaking countries of Congo Brazzaville and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were found dumped at Ramokgwebana border post.
The Patriot on Sunday has been reliably informed that 20 children found their way into the country through illegal means. Unconfirmed reports are that the children are either victims of child trafficking or were fleeing war for safety. This publication could not immediately establish where exactly the children were coming from. But sketchy information gathered by this publication established that the Swahili and French-speaking children are Congolese.
Impeccable sources disclosed that the Congolese children were found shivering and trembling at the point of entry the previous Friday evening. Innocently, the sources claimed, the children crowded together in a bid to warm themselves.
Although Tshesebe Police Station Commander Botshelo Maphorisa, to whom the children were handed, professed ignorance of the matter, Labour and Home Affairs Minister Edwin Batshu admitted learning about the issue. However, Batshu did not confirm circumstances under which the children reached Botswana. “Investigations into establishing where the children are coming from and what transpired for them to arrive here will be soon instituted,” Batshu said.
He said the government will take necessary steps in ensuring that the children are reunited with their parents if they are victims of child trafficking. He said the government will also do everything within its power to ensure that the children are provided with protection if they are fleeing. “Botswana is a signatory to Convention on Transnational Organised Crime in relation to child trafficking. We are also a signatory to International Human Rights instruments,” said Batshu, adding that the children will be given the necessary support.
He revealed that the local law enforcement agencies will flex their long arm and arrest the culprits. He said the culprits will be brought to book and face the full wrath of the law. Dukwi Refugee Camp’s Settlement Commandant Bonang Batekele also confirmed the development but could not be drawn into discussing the matter at length, arguing that “the said children are yet to be handed over to him.”
But an immigration official stationed at Ramokgwebana border post who talked to this publication on condition of total anonymity said the children arrived at the point of entry the previous Friday. “They (the children) are twenty in number. And they are so young with the oldest being 15 years old,” said the official, who seemed traumatised by the occurrence. She said the oldest of them all is the one who told officials that they were looking for Dukwi.
During an interview with officials, the anonymous immigration official said the children told them that they were smuggled through Tanzania, Kenya, and Zambia into Botswana in a container truck from the volatile DRC. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’s Chief of Mission in Botswana Mulugeta Zewdie lamented during the World Refugee Day that the refugee numbers are escalating at an alarming rate.