Assistant Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ronald Shamukani this week applauded the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for continuing to support Government's efforts to help refugees in Botswana.
He said that while many countries in southern Africa had experienced a downscaling that saw a reduction in the number of refugee camps, Botswana has decided to keep its camp open for the benefit of those who are in a vulnerable position after being displaced from their homes.
"A few years ago, UNHCR decided to downscale its operations in many countries across the region and Botswana was among them. But the UNHCR later reconsidered this decision and decided to keep the office here open and operational and we are pleased with their decision for a reconsideration," he said.
The Dukwi Refugee Camp, which is the only refuge settlement in Botswana, is reportedly hosting over approximately 800 refugees mainly from the eastern and central parts of Africa and the growing number of asylum seekers from the same areas particularly the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Shamukani also noted that under the circumstances and still with challenges of strained relations and dire economic challenges, Botswana would continue to extend support to other Africans who had been forced into internal and external displacement due to persecution, violence and war in their home countries.
"Botswana continues to maintain an open-door policy in line with its international obligations while ensuring that internal security is maintained," he said.
He said Botswana is aware of the view raised by some interested parties that it has a high rejection rate of asylum applications but assured Botswana's humanitarian stakeholders that all asylum seekers are assessed by a dedicated and trained team in order to find a long-lasting solution to the plight of the affected.
During the Covid-19 pandemic there was concern and worry over whether refugees here would be well cared for and receive adequate care. Botswana put an effort to keep the camp operational and to protect those in the camp and the UNHCR office subsequently described Botswana as a "role model" in accepting refugees during the pandemic period at a time when many countries had closed borders to curtail the spreading of the disease amidst the high infection and death rate.
According to recent data (September 2022) from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, sub-Sahara Africa hosts more than 26 percent, over 18 million, of the world's refugees, and in recent years, the number has soared, partly due to the ongoing crises happening in the Central Africa Republic, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burundi.