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Zimbabwe: Refugees Draining Botswana Resources

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Zimbabwe: Refugees Draining Botswana Resources

Post  Admin on Mon Jul 28, 2008 5:56 pm

The number of Zimbabweans seeking shelter in neighbouring countries is reaching unmanageable proportions, with the Botswana government appealing for international help with the influx of Zimbabweans - who it says are draining Botswana's resources.

Foreign Minister Phandu Sekelemani told South Africa's SAfm radio station on Sunday that the influx of Zimbabweans into Botswana "is an issue to be dealt with" and he called on the international community "to help us because it is a drain on our resources". Sekelemani said the number of refugees keeps growing and that the government "cannot turn them back once they qualify for refugee status". According to government sources late last year, Botswana was playing host to an estimated 250 000 Zimbabweans - a number that was growing as conditions under Robert Mugabe's regime went from bad to worse.

Meanwhile, many Zimbabweans who fled to South Africa are facing deportation after failing to apply for temporary South African ID cards. The group is among about 700 hundred foreign nationals that were forcibly removed from a refugee centre in Johannesburg last week - where they were taking shelter following the xenophobic attacks in South Africa earlier this year. They have since been removed to a repatriation centre where they face deportation, but South African media reported that many have taken to the streets in an effort to prevent being sent back home.

Daniel Molokele from the Global Zimbabwe forum told Newsreel on Monday that the situation in Botswana is indicative of what he called an "international humanitarian crisis". He said it was "very important that the UN get involved" to aid country's hosting Zimbabwean refugees as well as the refugees themselves.

He said pressure needs to be put on SADC leaders to "accept that there is a need for Africans to take responsibility for the crisis, because it is the direct result of the failure of Africa, in particular SADC, to intervene in the worsening Zimbabwean situation".

Molokele added that he respects South Africa's changing policy on refugees but emphasised that "any form of deportations is an affront to the situation in Zimbabwe". He said there should a complete stop to all Zimbabwean deportations "until further notice or at all" and that governments should invest in a "repatriation process" of all Zimbabweans seeking shelter from the violence in their home country.

Botswana earlier this month urged other nations in southern Africa not to recognise Mugabe's re-election in last month's one-man poll. Sekelemani reiterated calls for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). He said that Botswana "as a country that practices democracy and the rule of law" does not "recognise the outcome of the presidential run-off election, and would expect other SADC member states to do the same".


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