WINDHOEK - The Namibian government has turned desperate immigrants, who fled South Africa last month following a recent wave of xenophobic attacks, away because they are not recognised as asylum seekers. Home Affairs Commissioner for Refugees Likius Valombola told New Era yesterday that the 42 foreign nationals were being deported back to South Africa.
A screening process is underway at Noordoewer to deport them. He added that 11 had already returned to South Africa and have since been integrated into the community.
“They are being returned to South Africa. If there are those genuine ones, then the Namibian government is ready to take them in,” he assured.
The African News Agency (ANA) reported this week that 53 foreign nationals fled South Africa following attacks on foreigners in that country.
According to Valombola, the foreign nationals were illegally in the country because they did not go through legal procedures to seek asylum status.
“I am aware there are a number of refugees who desired to come to Namibia from South Africa. We received close to 200 refugees from South Africa during the violence in that country around June, July and August. Of recently, it is not clear why these asylum seekers are coming to Namibia,” he said. Equally, he noted, there are about 400 refugees who wanted to come to Namibia but were blocked by South Africa.
He explained that such a blockage was due to the commitment by the South Africa government, who assured they have the desire and capacity to protect the immigrants. However, Valombola made it clear that it is up to an individual who wishes to come to Namibia to follow proper procedures by approaching the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in South Africa, who will then engage the Namibian authorities.
ANA quoted //Kharas police chief David Indongo as saying the 53 foreign nationals who had camped at the Osire refugee camp were transported on Saturday morning by immigration officials to the southern border settlement of Noordoewer in preparation for their deportation this week. In this regard, Valombola denied that these refugees camped at Osire.
“I called that commissioner and told him that these people were never at Osire refugee settlement. For them to go to Osire, one has to be authorised. Any person-seeking asylum should report himself or herself to a police officer or immigration officer, then they will inform us to make arrangements to transport them to the settlement.
If they did go to Osire, then they did it illegally,” he clarified. Valombola revealed that these refugees entered the country via trucks coming to Namibia from South Africa. The refugees, who include 14 men, 13 women and 26 children, were being accommodated at the EHW Baard Primary School hostel in Noordoewer.
According to the Namibian police, the majority of the refugees are Congolese and Angolan nationals who have South African-issued asylum permits.
The 53 formed part of more than 600 refugees and asylum seekers who had camped at the UN’s High Commission for Refugees offices in Cape Town and Pretoria while demanding to be taken to safer countries.