An HIV support group in Botswana has accused the country’s government of trying to detain gay citizens or deport them if they are foreigners.

Uyapo Ndadi, director of Bonela, told the Mmegi newspaper that “the government continues to introduce unlawful and unconstitutional laws without consulting the people”.

Botswana’s Ministry of Health recently embarked on a study to estimate the population of female sex workers and men who have sex with other men in Gaborone, Francistown and Kasane. The study sought to establish the incidence and prevalence of HIV infection, and other sexually transmitted infections among the high-risk populations.

Mr Ndadi said that the groups most at risk were deceived to think that they would benefit from the study – but now risk being on the receiving end of state retribution.

“Only now we are learning that they will be detained and have all sorts of things done to them,” he said.

As part of government proposals sex workers and men who have sex with other men will be arrested and fined, while foreign ones will be deported.

Dakar-based pan-African APA News agency claims that even foreigners with valid papers could be detained for 48 hours before it’s decided whether they are to be deported. There are growing fears that the powers of arrest given to the police and the department of immigration is resulting in a homophobic “witch-hunt”.

Same-sex sexual activity remains illegal in Botswana and is punishable by up to 7 years’ imprisonment.

In February 2011, the Deputy Speaker of the Botswana National Assembly, Pono Moatlhodi, suggested gay people should be killed when asked if male prison inmates should have access to condoms.