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GRN not ready to fund refugees

2015-02-16  Mathias Haufiku

GRN not ready to fund refugees
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By Mathias Haufiku WINDHOEK - Government is not ready to take over the responsibility of financially caring for refugees in the country and has urged the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to continue funding the refugee protection programme even when it closes its offices in Namibia. UNHCR is phasing out its operations and will close its doors in the country later this year. Official statistics indicate there are currently between 3 000 and 4 000 refugees in Namibia. Namibia’s Commissioner for Refugees Nkrumah Mushelenga in an interview on Friday urged the UNHCR to continue funding government so that the programme can continue successfully. “If they close they should not stop the budget allocation to Namibia to ensure that the funds continue to cater for the protection services the Namibian government will deal with in the absence of the local UNHCR office,” said Mushelenga. Mushelenga said government is not ready to inherit the funding responsibilities of the refugee protection programme. “Namibia has its own domestic obligations to make sure that our limited national budget is used to cater for our people. If UNHCR moves out the entire financial burden will be on government and we are not ready to inherit that obligation, but are prepared to provide protection services to refugees,” Mushelenga said. We will make sure they continue funding us, said Mushelenga, adding that the funding should continue until there are no more refugees in the country. According to Mushelenga: “If they [UNHCR] decide to stop the funding then it means they are abandoning their international responsibilities towards refugees and asylum seekers.” Mushelenga said refugee protection services will not be recognised as international protection services should the UNHCR abandon the services completely. UNHCR will close its doors and move to South Africa from where it will monitor the programme through its auxiliary office. When the UNHCR’s local operations come to an end, government will be expected to continue administration and other operations such as conducting refugee registrations and issuing documents to asylum seekers. “We must sign a memorandum of understanding that clearly details the responsibilities of government and that of the UNHCR,” Mushelenga said. Mushelenga is also worried about the employment fate of the local UNHCR staff once its operations end in Namibia. Several workers have approached New Era claiming that the prospect of them being dumped into the unemployment stream is highly likely because they cannot all be absorbed into the resident UN system, while others remain hopeful that government can absorb them into the local refugee protection programme. During a brief telephonic interview on Friday, UNHCR Country Representative Lawrence Oba Mgbangson said the UNHCR staff will be taken care of. “We are not going to leave them in the cold. Some will be sent to South Africa for training and once they are done there they might be absorbed that side,” he said. – Additional reporting by Regina Simasiku.
2015-02-16  Mathias Haufiku

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