Changing Attitudes to Immigration and Refugee Policy in Botswana
For the last two decades, Botswana has had the reputation as a “country of immigration,” based on the large-scale import of skilled expatriates from Africa, Asia and the West. This policy has been accompanied by a general acceptance, and even openness, on the part of Batswana towards non-citizens. In the late 1990s, however, these attitudes began to change, with intolerance towards non-citizens growing in a country where it was unknown only a few years earlier. Against this background, the University of Botswana mounted the SAMP National Immigration Policy Survey (NIPS) in Botswana in 2001. This survey delved into two basic areas: (a) citizen perceptions of immigrants, migrants and refugees groups and (b) attitudes towards Botswana’s own national immigration policy. The research is important for a number of practical reasons: • Anecdotal reports of growing xenophobia need to be systematically assessed through rigorous survey methods. In other words, how widespread is the reported intolerance and is it more common amongst some groups? • Assuming that no government wishes to condone xenophobia, a survey of this nature can provide important insights into the causes and dimensions of intolerance and assist government in formulating appropriate responses, including public education campaigns; • A survey of citizen attitudes shows exactly how well-informed people actually are. Xenophobia is often based on misinformation and stereotyping. What images do Batswana hold of immigrants, migrants and refugees? How aware are they of the ideal of refugee protection and the government’s international human rights commitments? • The survey seeks to provide government with up-to-date information on the attitudes of citizens towards current immigration policy and possible future options.