Desperate Angolan nationals seeking employment in Namibia say they often survive by eating wild berries along the northern border.
Hordes of Angolans have been flocking to the country on a daily basis and mostly using ungazetted entry points into Namibia in search of low-paying jobs in order to feed their families back home.
The group includes young men and women, mothers and children as young as seven.
Apart from those who have successfully crossed the border, others are intercepted before they cross and are hungry to get to Namibia to buy food, seek medical services and other essential services.
On Monday, many Angolans were spotted under trees a few metres from the border, intending to cross into Namibia. Some claimed they wanted to cross into the country to buy food as they had nothing to eat, while some wanted to send money to their children in Namibia. “The borders are closed but we have children in Namibian universities, now we have money, but we cannot send it and as a result, our children end up being evicted from their rental homes,” stated one of the group members. The borders have been closed in order to curb the spread of Covid-19. Those who managed to cross the border hang around a central point under a tree on the way to the Oshikango open market. Several others are seen roaming around the streets of Oshikango. They claimed they have no food and as a result, illegally crossed to look for odd jobs in order to secure food for their families. The situation is unpleasant as some are accommodated in nearby homes while others sleep in the open in Oshikango at night. Because they cannot afford food, a group of about 50 people related that they feed on wild berries in the vicinity. “We hang around here hoping that someone will pick you up. If you are not picked you come back the next day and the next day,” said an illegal immigrant who does not wish to be named. Their stay at Oshikango is not pleasant, as they constantly have to run from the police to avoid being deported. “We keep running from the police because once you are caught, you are deported and often very far from home because they do not ask where we are from,” said one immigrant further. According to the governor of Ohangwena region, Walde Ndevashiya, illegal immigrants are rounded up and deported daily. Ambassador of Angola to Namibia Jovelina Imperial e Costa, who was visiting Ohangwena on Monday, said the Angolan government was aware of the border situation. She said the Angolan government is aware that farmers in Namibia employ young Angolans on their farms. She was, however, reluctant to state on record the reason they flock to Namibia is to secure jobs because of the situation in Angola. Instead, she claimed, Angolan nationals were in Namibia in multiples because Namibian farmers abandoned them. She further said that these farmers in some cases have the illegal immigrants arrested thus called for the farmers to be identified so that they can be engaged. “We are intending to take up the issue to a higher level because this is considered to be human trafficking,” said Costa. Costa assured her countrymen and women that their government is working around the clock with their Namibian counterparts to resolve cross-border issues. On his part, Ndevashiya said his office was aware and assured that the issue is on the agenda for the joint high-level meeting between the two governments next month. Ndevashiya said apart from Angolans crossing into the country, Namibians also cross into Angola to graze their livestock. Although they are only allowed to graze 60km into Angola, many have stretched beyond 200km into the neighbouring country from the border.