Five Zimbabweans residents in Botswana are battling deportation citing fear of political persecution. The concerned persons, led by Terrence Charuma, are challenging their deportation despite the cancellation of their refugee status by the Defence, Justice and Security ministry in February.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) cancelled their refugee status after ruling out claims of political prosecution.
The director for refugee management in the Defence, Justice and Security ministry, Thobo Letlhage, stated in the State’s opposing papers that “Not only was the decision national and fully supported, the decision was more than one year later borne out and confirmed by the UNHCR also finding that the applicants no longer merit being recognised as refugees”
“The statements by the applicants that returning refugees have been subjected to human rights violations and languishing in jail are blatantly untrue and this is borne out by the finding of the government and UNHCR.”
About 300 Zimbabweans sought refuge in Botswana citing political persecution during the violent 2008 presidential elections.
However, officials from the UN refugee agency in Botswana and Zimbabwe now maintain that the refugees were no longer at risk.
Letlhage explained that the citation by the applicants of an alleged fear of persecution is unfounded. He added that “The true and real reason the applicants refuse to go back to Zimbabwe is the prospect of exploiting economic opportunities that they have taken advantage of in Botswana. They are heavily involved in business ventures”
The UN refugee agency promised cash grants, food package and sanitary materials for returning refugees.
Botswana government intends to provide transportation, while Zimbabwean authorities will be responsible for their reception, documentation and reintegration.
Some Zimbabwean citizens have been deported since the outbreak of COVID-19, while others have returned home willingly.