More than 2 000 Angolan refugees now officially Namibians

WINDHOEK: A team from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration on Monday officially commenced with the submission of the names of 2 200 Angolan refugees who opted to be integrated into Namibia to the Regional Councils.

The team, led by Commissioner of Refugees Nkrumah Mushelenga, is undertaking a country-wide mission to all regions, where they are expected to hand over official documents declaring that the refugees have been integrated.

They started with the Omaheke Region on Monday.

Mushelenga told Nampa in an interview on Tuesday they have already met with the authorities from Kavango West, Kavango East and would on Wednesday be in the Otjozondjupa Region.

He described the meetings and discussions as progressing very well.

The Namibian Government has agreed to locally integrate 2 200 former Angolan refugees.

The governments of Namibia and Angola, as well as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) had a meeting in October last year to look into the possibility of speeding up the local integration of the profiled former Angolan refugees.

Profiled refugees are those individuals who have already applied for permanent residence status.

The Angolans form part of 20 000 refugees who were accommodated in the Osire Refugee Camp, and many of them have already voluntarily repatriated to their countries of origin.

The camp is situated nearly 100 kilometres south of Otjiwarongo in the Otjozondjupa Region.

The 2 200 refugees, many of whom were born in Namibia, have indicated that they want to be reintegrated into Namibia.

Speaking to this agency, Mushelenga noted that they are currently officially handing over the names of the refugees to the councillors and the Namibian Police Force (NamPol), amongst other authorities in the regions.

In the group that will be relocated into Namibia, there are women, children, elderly people, school-going children, people with disabilities, and sick people, amongst others who need to be included in the regional structures.

The group will be relocated according to their preferences in Omaheke, Otjozondjupa, Oshikoto, Kavango East, Kavango West, Ohangwena, Oshana, Omusati, Kunene, Erongo and Khomas regions.

Mushelenga indicated that the biggest number of refugees chose to be relocated in the Otjozondjupa, Oshikoto, Ohangwena and Oshana regions.

He made it clear that apart from the offer from the Namibian Government to integrate the refugees, there will be no other attached offers such as land or accommodation.

“Namibians must be assured that these refugees will not be allocated land or other commodities, they will be on their own. Before the refugees were profiled, they were informed that the government will not be responsible for giving them land and accommodation. They are not going to take anything from anyone inclusive the land,” he emphasised.

But he indicated that most of the refugees are already established business people.

“These are children of the soil and they will add value to our economy and social upliftment,” said Mushelenga, urging Namibians not to panic and to instead work with these people for the sake of developing the country together.

“I am excited that we are about to reach the end of the tunnel. We are moving towards a world without refugees,” said the commissioner.

All Angolan refugees living at the Osire Refugee Camp have been told to move from the camp from June this year as their “jacket of refugee status” was removed on 30 June 2013.

According to the 1951 United Nations General Cessation Declaration, the international protection of a specific group of refugees ceases if circumstances which led to their recognition as refugees have ceased to exist.

The UNHCR is busy phasing out its activities in Namibia.

Angola started to re-establish its peace in 2002 after emerging from a prolonged and devastating civil war which broke out in 1975 between the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the People’s Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA).

UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi was killed in an ambush in February 2002 by the Angolan military armed forces, ending the civil war in that country.

So far, many Angolans have been voluntarily repatriated to their country after they lived as refugees for many years in countries such as Namibia, Zambia, South Africa and Botswana.

About 10 000 Angolans have been locally integrated in Zambia, while unspecific numbers were integrated in South Africa and Botswana.

Mushelenga and his delegation are expected to return to Windhoek on 23 May this year.