WINDHOEK - Retired commissioner for refugees in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, Nkrumah Mushelenga, has called for the integration of Namibian refugees at Dukwe in Botswana if they feel they do not want to return to Namibia.
Speaking in an interview with New Era yesterday, Mushelenga said the African Union 1969 convention governing the specific aspects of refugee problems in Africa and the 1951 United Nations’ refugee convention make provision for voluntary repatriation of refugees.
The conventions, both of which Namibia is signatory to, make provision for the voluntary repatriation of refugees, their resettlement or their local integration, stressed the retired commissioner for refugees.
This means that if refugees feel they will not be safe in their country of origin they may not be forced to return, explained Mushelenga.
In 2015, the Government of Botswana declared a secession clause, meaning that the group are no longer considered as refugees but as illegal immigrants, The Namibian newspaper reported last year.
Last year, the government of Botswana gave them a deadline of May 11 to July 11 to register to be voluntarily repatriated to Namibia, The Namibian newspaper further reported.
Mushelenga yesterday said he gets a feeling that Namibians in Dukwe are being forced to return to Namibia even against their will.
“The refugees’ host country is required to seek other countries that may be interested in hosting these people if they do not want to return home. The Namibian Government cannot force the refugees to return to Namibia and neither can the Government of Botswana, said Mushelenga.
“That is illegal in terms of the (AU and UN conventions on refugees) conventions,” stated Mushelenga.
Mushelenga said refugees in Dukwe who do not want to be repatriated should be integrated in communities in Botswana and those wanting to return home should be encouraged with attractive incentives.
Mushelenga further said he is ready to work with the government to implement ideas that would bring back Namibian refugees at Dukwe.
“You cannot force people. Why can’t we contribute by advising our government? The thing (Dukwe repatriation process) just became chaotic when we left,” said Mushelenga who was commissioner for refugees in the Ministry of Home Affairs from 1996 to 2015.
Integrating the Namibians at Dukwe will also be good for peace between the two countries and also for international relations, he said.
During his tenure as commissioner for refugees more than 2 000 Namibians living in Dukwe were repatriated successfully to Namibia, said Mushelenga. He was also part of the team responsible for the integration of 2 400 Angolan refugees in Namibia in 2014.
“Angola is democratic. We had to integrate the Angolan refugees who felt they did not want to go back home and we were internationally recognised for that,” boasted Mushelenga.
Mushelenga made the remarks in an interview wherein he and his colleague, Johanna Kanini Kaukolwa, also a former employee of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, revealed the plans for their new organisation that assists refugees in Namibia.
Mushelenga and Kaukolwa are directors of the Southern Africa Refugee Protection (SARP), a non-governmental organisation responsible for the social, legal and health protection of refugees and asylum seekers.
2019-02-13 09:45:24 7 days ago