In fact it was an emotional day for the refugees’ spokesperson Flex Kakula and his compatriots, starting with testy back-to-back exchanges with Botswana authorities and climaxing with arrests of some of the refugees by security agents. They were loaded into trucks.
More than 700 Namibian nationals who have been living at Dukwi Refugee Camp in northern Botswana for the past 21 years were on Friday deported back to their native country after they failed to register for voluntary repatriation.
Director in the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, Thobo Lethage had earlier told the refugees that they had up to August 31 to register for voluntary repatriation but they failed to do so.
The refugees have previously insisted that they would not go back home without having an assurance from the Namibian government that they would not be persecuted upon their return.
According to Kakula on Friday, they informed authorities “this morning that the facts are that we will not be safe in Namibia because we belong to a party that was banned. We told them that you can take what is there but we will not surrender.”
Kakula said United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees officials “have told us that they will stop assisting us with humanitarian aid because we are no longer refugees."
The refugees are part of more than 3,000 who fled secessionist violence in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip in 1998.
Their fate was recently sealed by Botswana’s Court of Appeal, which ruled that it was safe for them to return to Namibia.
The refugees are part of those who were fighting for the secession of the Caprivi Strip from Namibia, a move they claim is part of an agreement made by liberation parties before Namibia’s independence.
Some of the refugees opted for voluntary repatriation a few years ago.