News and Information

Refugees call on govt, UNHCR, NGOs to appreciate their problems
June 25, 2004
FRANCISTOWN - Refugees at Dukwi said the refusal by relevant authorities to allow them to earn a living is tantamount to the destruction of their social skills and self esteem.

Speaking at the World Refugee Day commemorations in Dukwi on June 21, they said a man feels happy when he is allowed to struggle, especially that man and work do interrelate and complement each other.

They complained that some rejected asylum seeks are kept in detention centre without any hope that they will either be deported or resettled.

They called on the UNHCR and the government to look into the plight and adopt a more humane approach.

Refugees said it was heartbreaking that the young refugees who want to further their studies are always turned down even if colleagues wish to enroll them.

They said a situation would only serve to promote illiteracy among refugees and requested government to come to the rescue of redundant refugees in the camp.

Some of the problems cited included the resettlement process, which they said the UNHCR disapprove their resettlement even if some countries do accept them, tent accommodation, and inadequate medical facilities.

They said the camp has no residence medical doctor to cater for the refugees and that referrals take long.

Dukwi refugees said repatriation at this moment is not variable because most African countries are still fighting; torture, arrests, and brutal killings are still the order of the day.

They called on the government, UNHCR and voluntary organisations and other agencies to appreciate and understand refugee problems and take correct measures to lessen the degree of mental stress that they suffer.

They also appealed to all politicians and all decision makers in African countries to put security issues of their citizens ahead of every decision, be it political, economical, military or socially.

Refugees urged the government and UNHCR to solve their problems in the camp and ensure that tranquillity prevails.

Speaking on behalf of the HIV/AIDS peer education group in Dukwi, Mavis Matenge said HIV/AIDS is a major problem facing the refugee population in Botswana.

Matenge said the proactive strides to mitigate the spread of HIV infection are challenged by limited resources such as the absence of food baskets, ARV treatment and the phasing out of PMTCT program.

She noted that those challenges pose gaps in the provision of quality HIV/AIDS related health care services.

She said there was an urgent need to bridge those gap and appealed to the government as well as international community to stand shoulder to shoulder with the refugee community in addressing HIV/AIDS related services such as ARV treatment are an essential part of the refugee protection and assistance framework.

For his part, UNHCR representative, Benny Otim applauded the government and Batswana for having opened their doors to individuals seeking refuge from violent conflicts, which have persistently plagued the African continent.

Otim assured the Dukwi refugees that UNHCR would continue to work closely with the government to improve the conditions of refugees.

He noted that in order to solve his problems and maintain himself and his family, a refugee needed to be "accepted by and integrated into the community in which the refugee finds himself or herself".

He said in some cases, a refugee should be assisted to retrain in a trade for which there was a demand in Botswana, and if qualified, be given an opportunity to work and contribute to the development of their adopted home. BOPA


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