Attitudes of Botswana Citizens toward Immigrants: Signs of Xenophobia?

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Abstract

This study is borne out of observations over the past decade that citizens of Botswana were increasingly feeling resentful of labour immigrants in the country. A survey questionnaire was administered to a sample of 781 male and female Batswana (citizens of Botswana) in three urban centres in Botswana. The purpose was to obtain opinions of Batswana about immigrants. The paper begins by examining the meaning of xenophobia. The results indicate that Batswana are xenophobic; it appears that this attitude is influenced by a combination of nationalism and economic factors. There is a strong desire to preserve the “fruits” of economic prosperity for citizens alone. Europeans and North Americans are most preferred in terms of being accepted as part of the Botswana society and among those who may apply to become citizens of Botswana. The second most preferred are Africans. Asians, especially Indians, are the least preferred. Indeed, Botswana citizens of Indian descent are viewed with considerable suspicion and dislike by other citizens of the country. Primarily for this reason, Asians seem to be the worst victims of xenophobia in Botswana. Short- and specific-term residences by immigrants are preferred over permanent residence. Some citizens are prepared to take every possible action to discourage immigrants from staying in the country; few would employ violent methods to achieve this goal.

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