The number of Namibians fleeing seccessionist tensions in the northern Caprivi Strip south into Botswana has increased from 1,200 a month ago to over 2,000, a UNHCR spokesman told IRIN on Thursday.
Many of the asylum-seekers, most of whom are being housed in the Dukwe refugee camp north of the capital Gaborone, claimed in interviews with Botswana and UNHCR officials that they were being harassed by a Namibian military security unit sent into the area.
The refugees include an additional 1,000 San bushmen who have not formally sought asylum.
In a statement to IRIN this week, the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) said abuses against people in Caprivi “are continuing unabated”.
It cited the arrest of Rosco Kachilindwa Silebuho by members of the unit, the Special Field Force (SFF), on 25 December. NSHR said it had been told he had been beaten unconscious after being accused of being a member of a group called the Caprivi Liberation Movement.
“Local monitors also reported that several residents of the Caprivi region, especially members of the opposition Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), Mafwe tribesmen and former members of the apartheid-era South African-controlled security forces, have had their passports seized by the SFF without being given reasons,” the human rights group said.
The Namibians who have been crossing the border since late October last year include the former leader DTA leader Mishake Muyongo, Senator Francis Sizimbo, Caprivi Strip governor, John Mabuku and a traditional leader, Boniface Mamila.
UNHCR, which conducted a fact-finding mission in Botswana last week, said refugees were trickling into Botswana daily and that their number was currently estimated at 2,046.
Botswana’s President, Festus Mogae, citing good relations with neighbouring Namibia, has pledged that none of the refugees would be forced to return.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions