Botswana, which has for close to three decades been a safe haven for many Somali, Namibians, Zimbabweans and other nationalities, is planning to toughen the Refugee (Recognition and Control) Act to deal with a growing disorder in the refugee camp. While the government through the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security has been doing everything within its power to ensure maximum protection of both asylum seekers and refugees, the current administration is of the belief some are abusing the courtesy extended to them. Humanitarian organisations such as United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and Organisation for International Migration (IOM) have been calling for more sympathy on displaced immigrants, a call that the government has heeded for years. However, some of the refugees and asylum seekers have not been abiding by the laws and government is fighting back by tightening rules. Refugees and asylum seekers are housed at Dukwi Refugee Camp in the central district. Minister Shaw Kgathi is seeking absolute powers to revoke refugee status of those who do flout the laws of the country. He did not mince his words in confirming his already advanced intentions to amend the current refugee law that governs refugees in the country. “The (envisaged) amendment of the refugee is still at its draft legislation stage,” Kgathi confirmed in an interview without giving reasons behind the intended amendment bid. Kgathi added: “Amending a law is not a child’s play. There are a lot of things involved. I cannot say when the amendment bill will be tabled in parliament.”
Presenting to the Committee of Supply in Parliament last Wednesday, Kgathi said the Amendment to the Refugee (Recognition and Control) Act is on-going. He said the intention of the amendment is to improve the management of refugees, and to align it to other domestic and international statutes and obligations, balanced with the emerging global security challenges. During his recent visit to Dukwi Refugee Camp, Kgathi allegedly told refugees to stay in the camp and that he was amending the refugee law in order to deal with all the loopholes, which gave refugees a leeway. “The minister told us that once the bill has been passed and a law enacted he will have power as a minister to revoke a status for refugees who do not behave well,” said one concerned refugee. The unnamed refugee said the minister is concerned by refugees, especially Zimbabweans and Namibians who skip the country into their native nations, saying their status will be revoked immediately. Botswana hosts about 3000 refugees from 14 countries across Africa and the highest number of them are from Namibia (919), Zimbabwe (688) and Somalia (316).