Albertina Nakale Windhoek-There were 7 388 refugees and asylum seekers residing in Namibia – with an estimated 3 400 reported to have since disappeared – leaving 3 988 accounted for by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration. Osire Refugee Settlement once housed more than 20 000 refugees and asylum seekers, but that number fell to less than 4 000 since 2014 after government repatriated all the Angolan nationals back to their country. Namibia’s Commissioner for Refugees, Likius Valombola, in an interview with New Era this week said Osire Refugee Settlement has hosted a number of refugees and most of them have been voluntarily repatriated to their home countries – these are mainly Angolans, Rwandese and Burundians. He said there are 3 988 refugees in the settlement and the majority are from the Great Lake Regions. Equally, Valombola revealed that Namibia hosts 3 400 inactive refugees, meaning in total Namibia hosts 7 388 refugees. Venantius Nauyoma, Deputy Director for Refugee Administration in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, explained that inactive refugees are those not accounted for because they have moved out of the designated settlements and did not come back to account for their whereabouts. “These are the people who were in the settlement. Currently, they are not benefiting from the UNHCR. Some might have got married and are living with their spouses or could have secured employment somewhere in Namibia but they didn’t come back to inform us. These are the inactive refugees we are talking about,” Nauyoma explained. The majority of the active refugees and asylum seekers come from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Burundi. He said it is important to understand that people seek refuge in other country because of hardships, turmoil and war. Valombola said when the reason that made them to flee from their countries of origin normalises, refugees are encouraged to return home and participate in development programmes of their country. After thing normalize, the three parties (sending country, receiving country and UNHCR) enter into a tripartite agreement to pave the way for voluntary repatriation within a specific timeframe. After the period of voluntary repatriation lapsed, UNHCR invokes what is called a “Cessation Clause”, meaning that their refugee status comes to an end on a certain due date given. “After the due date, those refugees who could not take up voluntary repatriation are given two options –either to apply for local integration in Namibia or resettlement into a third country,” he maintained. This programme was successful with the Angolan refugees who lived at Osire when they voluntarily went back home, while others applied for local integration. Therefore, the Commissioner said, those who applied for local integration in Namibia are being integrated into the Namibian community. So far, 366 family members have been integrated locally. Regarding the Namibian refugees living in Botswana in Dukwi Refugee Camp, he said this process is an ongoing exercise. “Take note that this is a voluntary exercise and, as a government, we do not have any mandate to force thisgroup of people to come back home once and for all. The government only assists by receiving and integrating them in the community,” the Commissioner indicated. He said four refugees were repatriated to Namibia from Dukwi Refugee Camp in Botswana on 14 September 2017 – leaving an estimated 880 refugees in that country. Valombola explained that the upkeep of refugees is the reasonability of the host government and UNHCR, in this regard the government of Botswana provides security and accommodation (land) while UNHCR Botswana provides foodstuff, water and clothing. The Commissioner said the “Come and See” and “Go and Tell” Missions are working as some refugees end up deciding to repatriate. “Returnees are given similar treatment by the government, as those who have been in the country. There is no special treatment given to them. Those repatriated are doing wonderful work by engaging in subsistence farming to sustain their livelihood. The government takes them back to their villages where their family and relatives are living, under normal circumstances; they go back to their places,” Valombola said.
2017-10-06 09:41:13 11 months ago