Following its recent visit to Botswana, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) expressed serious concerns regarding the country’s punitive approach towards refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants. Having visited two detention sites, the Working Group urged Botswanan authorities to revise its policies to ensure that immigration detention is used as an exception, for the shortest period of time, and following an individualised assessment of the need to detain. The UN body also urged the country to improve detention conditions and cease the detention of children and families.
After its visit to the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants—a detention centre that closely resembles a prison and is staffed by prison officers—the WGAD noted:
“[Detainees’] desperate plight was plain to see. The Group was appalled by their conditions of detention, with lock-up time around 4:30 pm when people are confined to the blocks. There are no purposeful activities and provision for children, especially in relation to education, is lacking. There were numerous credible accounts of widespread violence, including sexual violence involving children.”
To assist the Working Group during preparations for its visit to Botswana, the GDP and South Africa-based Lawyers for Human Rights issued a joint submission highlighting immigration detention concerns in the country. The joint submission, which also benefitted from information and assistance from Bosa Bosele Training College and Skillshare Botswana, highlighted how the country’s treatment of detained non-nationals violates norms provided in international human rights treaties, which were reiterated in the WGAD’s 2018 Revised Deliberation No. 5 on the deprivation of liberty of migrants. Many of the concerns highlighted in this joint submission are included in the Working Group’s Preliminary Findings.
In response to these findings, Lawyers for Human Rights’ Nabeelah Mia said: “The conditions in which refugees and migrants are confined in Botswana are not in accordance with human rights’ standards. We are pleased to see the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention repeating our concerns and suggestions, and sincerely hope that the country urgently follows the Working Group’s recommendations to ensure respect for the rights of non-nationals.”
- OHCHR, “Botswana Must Urgently Embrace Further Safeguards Against Arbitrary Detention For All – UN Experts,” 15 July 2022, https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/07/botswana-must-urgently-embrace-further-safeguards-against-arbitrary#:~:text=GABORONE%20(15%20July%202022)%20%E2%80%93,a%20visit%20to%20the%20country
- Global Detention Project and Lawyers for Human Rights, “Botswana: Submission to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” 27 June 2022, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/botswana-submission-to-the-un-working-group-on-arbitrary-detention
- Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, “Revised Deliberation No. 5 on Deprivation of liberty of migrants, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” 2018, https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/Documents/Issues/Detention/RevisedDeliberation_AdvanceEditedVersion.pdf