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Ministry of Defence Justice and Security(MDJS)
RESPONSE TO A QUESTIONNAIRE FROM SUNDAY STANDARD ON THE WATE...
13/12/13
RESPONSE TO A QUESTIONNAIRE FROM SUNDAY STANDARD ON THE WATER SUPPLY DISCONNECTION IN DUKWI REFUGEE CAMP

The Editor

Sunday Standard

P O Box AD187

Gaborone

 

Dear Sir

 

RESPONSE TO A QUESTIONNAIRE

 

We submit the Ministry’s response to your questionnaire as follows:-

 Question 1: 
The Sunday Standard has established that the Water Utilities Corporation
has disconnected water at Dukwi Refugee Camp since 9th December 2013,
because there is an outstanding bill of P7 million.  Is it not government’s
obligation as per Section 51 of the UN Convention to provide water for the
refugees?

 

Answer:

Government has an obligation to provide water to all its institutions irrespective of who the beneficiary is.  Botswana has been providing safety, shelter and all services to refugees in Botswana.  Indeed it can be confirmed that water in Dukwi has been disconnected due to the incredibly high and unsustainable water bill.  It has to be noted that Dukwi is not immune to commercial water charges and the harsh realities of water scarcity affecting all parts of the country.  Going forward, water restrictions that may be imposed on villages around the Camp like Dukwi village, Mosetse, Lepashe, Gutamogoree and others, will certainly be extended to the Camp as well.  This water disconnection is a temporary setback which is being addressed in short and long terms, in collaboration with Water Utilities Corporation including trying to resuscitate the two boreholes identified around the Camp.  The other problem is that refugees have been using portable water for agricultural and horticultural activities, which is not sustainable cost wise for Botswana Government.  We have established that it is these activities that have led to the exorbitant bill which led to the disconnection.  It is this issue that we are actively engaged with UNHCR with a view to providing water in the Camp only for household purposes now and in the future.

Question 2:

We have been able to establish that your ministry has been asking UNHCR to pay part of the bill.  Why has government decided to go back on its obligation under the UN Convention?

 

Answer:

All avenues are being explored to find a quick solution for the reconnection of the water supply in the Camp as a matter of priority.  For its part, the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security is within its limited and already depleted 2013/14 budget working round the clock to salvage any possible savings from across the Ministry to pay this huge and unprecedented bill.  It is not unusual therefore, to pursue the matter with our primary cooperating partner, which is the UNHCR.  Communication with them on this matter was in primary pursuit of the welfare of refugees which the Botswana Government regards as very important.  We believe that the UNHCR has the same purpose and mission, and is committed to work with us to find a solution to this problem.

 

Question 3:

We have also been able to establish that the government of Botswana insists that refugees from Zimbabwe and Namibia should be repatriated while UNHCR is dead set against it.  How has the stalemate over the issue been addressed?

 

Answer:   Botswana, like all countries hosting refugees, works with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on finding durable solutions to refugee problems, i.e repatriation, resettlement and reintegration.  These solutions are open to and applicable to all refugees hosted in Botswana, including Zimbabweans and Namibians.  However, of the three options, Botswana considers repatriation as the best durable solution for addressing refugee problems.

 

 

 

Question 4:

(i)             There is also a sense that Botswana is pulling the welcome mat from under the feet of refugees.

 

Answer:   The policy on refugees in Botswana is to accept anybody who meets the national processes for asylum.  It is recognized however, in the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees that being a refugee should not be a permanent status for any individual hence countries and the UNHCR are always working on finding a durable solution for refugees commensurate with articles of the Convention that the State Party has agreed to.

 

(ii)    The decision to declare the previous UNHCR head of mission a prohibited immigrant in Botswana, the subsequent decision to force former UNHCR field Officer based in Dukwi out of the country.

 

Answer:   We have no knowledge of any UNHCR personnel who has ever been declared a prohibited immigrant in Botswana.  This can be confirmed with the UNHCR and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

 

(iii)    Recent arbitrary arrest against refugees, especially Somali refugees.  Please comment on these observations.

 

Answer:   If there is any refugee arrested it would be pursuant to laws of Botswana, if such individual would have transgressed Botswana laws, and this happens quite regularly.  For example, two recognized Somali refugees were recently arrested for crossing into Zimbabwe without any passports, contrary to Immigration laws of both countries.

 

Question 5:

 

(i)             The inordinate delays by your Ministry to renew permits and travelling documents to refugees.

 

Answer:   Delays would be unavoidable because often times applicants do not provide sufficient information necessary for issuance and renewal of permits and travelling documents.  This inconveniences all stakeholders involved in the processing of the documents.  However, where there are deserving cases, such as education and medical needs, the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security has facilitated with the relevant authorities, issuance of temporary documents without delay.

 

(ii)    The spate of arrests by Botswana Police against refugees found without valid permits is believed to be part of a pattern by government to put a squeeze on refugees.  Please comment on these allegations.

 

Answer:   Anybody found irrespective of nationality without travel documents or working without work and residence permits would be in violation of the laws of Botswana and applicable measures would be taken.

 

Thank you.

 

Yours faithfully

 

 

(signed)

Samma G. Tabudi

Public Relations Officer

(gtabudi@gov.bw)

 

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