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Cablegate: Botswana Prepares for Hordes of Zimbabwean Asylum

P 241528Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY GABORONE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5056
INFO SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY

UNCLAS GABORONE 000511

DEPT. FOR AF/S, AF/RSA, OFDA
PRETORIA FOR USAID
USAFRICOM FOR STRATEGY PLANS AND PROGRAMS (MC) SOUTHERN
BRANCH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: BC PGOV PREF ZI
SUBJECT: BOTSWANA PREPARES FOR HORDES OF ZIMBABWEAN ASYLUM
SEEKERS

REF: GABORONE 470

1. The Office of the President organized a fact-finding trip
to Francistown and environs June 15-17 to familiarize members
of the diplomatic community with their plans to process and
care for potentially thousands of Zimbabweans fleeing the
violence in their country. Those participating were myself,
the British High Commissioner, staff from the German and
French Embassies, the UNHCR Representative based in Gaborone
and the UNHCR Representative for Humanitarian Assistance
based in Harare. The diplomats were selected on the basis
that we have citizens in Zimbabwe who may need assistance.
Per reftel, the Government of Botswana has told us that we
may do whatever we need to do to assist our citizens,
including bringing in military aircraft.

2. By BDF helicopters, we traveled first to Dukwe Refugee
camp, about 140 km north west of Francistown, where
approximately 500 Zimbabwean refugees have been screened and
admitted since April 1. They are being housed in tents
provided by the Government of Botswana and the UNHCR. There
are plans to exand the tent city as needed with water pipes
andlatrines being installed as we visited. The direcor of
the camp said that the long-time residents-- mostly
Namibians, Angolans and Somalis -- arewelcoming the
Zimbabweans, and the children have been assimilated easily
into the school.

3. We then traveled to three of the seven "reception
centers" located along the Botswana/Zimbabwe border. There
the potential refugees will be screened, fed and given a
place to sleep for up to 72 hours. They will then be
transferred to the Center for Illegal Immigrants in
Francistown or the Dukwe camp. The reception centers are in
the process of being set up, and will have tents, mattresses,
latrines or flush toilets and showers for the staff and
asylum seekers. Food will also be provided for the
Zimbabweans, since those who have already come across were
described as exhausted and very hungry, with some having
suffered beatings and torture. The reception centers have
been located no closer than 40 km from the border with
Zimbabwe, since many still remember the 1970s when troops
from the apartheid regime in Southern Rhodesia raided and
killed a number of Zimbabweans and Batswana in camps near the
border.

4. The reception centers have all been organized by the
District Disaster Committees, made up of local
representatives of government agencies and NGOs such as the
Red Cross. We were all impressed with how much has been done
in just a few weeks, and how well they are working as a team.
While they seem to have sufficient resources to meet the
needs of the current influx, if thousands of Zimbabweans
stream across the border in the future, they will certainly
need help. I have asked my staff to work with the OFDA
representative in Pretoria to have a request for $50,000 in
disaster assistance ready to go should the GOB request it.


CANAVAN

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