In June 2022, the Global Detention Project (GDP) and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) issued a joint-submission to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in preparation for its mission to Botswana from 4-15 July 2022 concerning issues related to immigration detention in Botswana. The submission highlights the gaps in the country’s national refugee legislation, lack of ratification of key international human rights treaties, and problems in the two main sites of deprivation of liberty of migrants and refugees–the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants and Dukwi Refugee Camp.
The GDP and LHR encouraged the Working Group to make several recommendations, including: (a) “Prioritise the finalising of its new Refugee Bill and ensure that it is compliant with its legal obligations under international human rights law…”; (b) “Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”; (c) “Ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families”; (d) “Withdraw the reservation to Article 7 of the Convention against Torture concerning the prohibition against torture”; and (e) “Ensure that the conditions of detention meet the highest possible standards and that people in any form of migration detention – including at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants and the Dukwi Refugee Camp – received equal access to healthcare as the rest of society.”
The submission also brings attention to a number of reported allegations of serious abuse and poor conditions in Francistown maximum security prison and the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants. There have been reports of murder and rape, including of children, as well as lack of access to adequate healthcare, and violent suppressions of protests by operatives, including instigators being sent to Francistown maximum security prison.
In 2021, a fire damaged the Francistown Prison, resulting in some prisoners being held in the Centre for Illegal Immigrants (FCII) in separate areas from asylum seekers and migrants. It was also reported that during 2021, the Francistown Prison was used as a COVID-19 quarantine centre for new inmates on remand before being transferred to the FCII, with FCII holding prisoners, asylum seekers and migrants. On 24 July 2021, 100 detainees out of around 300 tested positive for COVID-19, posing a serious danger to other prisoners as the FCII is overcrowded.
According to UNHCR data, there were 617 refugees and 422 asylum seekers in the country in 2020; in 2021, there were 688 refugees and 58 asylum seekers. While Botswana is a signatory to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, it maintains a number of reservations to both the Convention and the Protocol, including a reservation to Article 7 on reciprocity. In effect, this means that Botswana is not obliged to offer refugees the same treatment that is accorded generally to non-citizens that are in Botswana. The country has also made a reservation to Article 31, prohibiting the imposition of penalties on refugees unlawfully in the country of refuge, as well as Article 32, which prohibits the expulsion of refugees except on grounds of national security or public order.
- Global Detention Project & Lawyers for Human Rights, “Joint-Submission to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Preparation for Its Mission to Botswana from 4-15 July 2022,” June 2022, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/botswana-submission-to-the-un-working-group-on-arbitrary-detention
- United States Department of State, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Botswana 2020,” 2021, https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/BOTSWANA-2020-HUMAN-RIGHTS-REPORT.pdf
- L. Mosikare, “COVID-19 Hits F/Town Prison, Paralyses Justice System,” The Monitor, 2 August 2021, https://www.pressreader.com/botswana/the-monitor-4753/20210802/281569473771837
- N. Ntibinyane, “Prison of Injustice,” Mail & Guardian, 5 January 2018, https://mg.co.za/article/2018-01-05-prisoners-of-injustice/
- UNHCR, “Refugee Data Finder: Botswana,” accessed on 1 July 2022, https://www.unhcr.org/refugee-statistics/
- Nursery School at the Dukwi Refugee Camp (A. Bouvier, “ICRC Audiovisual Archives: Reference V-P-BW-E-00012,” 15 March 2011, https://avarchives.icrc.org/Picture/108610)