Over 3000 Angolans Leave Osire

More than 3000 Angolan refugees in Namibia have been repatriated back to their country, after their classification of refugee status ended.

Namibian Commissioner for Refugees, Nkrumah Mushelenga confirmed the repartriation of all Angolan refugees, after he had earlier issued an ultimatum for all Angolans to leave Osire by March this year.

Their repatriation is a result of the invocation of the cessation clauses entered into force on June 30, 2012 on the basis that Angola has enjoyed many years of peace and stability after bitter civil wars. The Angolans, who lost refugee status include those who fled the oil-rich country during the 1965-75 war of independence from Portugal and the subsequent civil war, which ended in 2002 after the death of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi.

This means people who fled the two eras of conflict and remain abroad will no longer be regarded as refugees by UNHCR and host governments. Since the clause became effective, more than 3000 Angolan refugees have been successfully repatriated back to their country during March and June 2012.

“There are no more Angolan refugees throughout the world after the classification of their refugee status ended in June 2012 after the invocation of the cessation clause. Any Angolan you meet either in Namibia or South Africa should be there as an Angolan on an immigration permit. He or she may have permanent or temporary resident permit or is a student or else employee or employer. All of them are no longer called refugees,” Mushelenga told New Era in an interview yesterday.

He also noted that Namibian government has not granted any Angolan Namibian citizenship, apart from those who were given citizenship through Cabinet decision of 2012.

Adding that the decision was not focusing on Angolan refugees who arrived after independence but those who were born and lived in Namibia around the 1970s.

More than 23 000 refugees mainly Angolans arrived shortly after Namibia’s independence in 1990 and were housed at Osire refugee camp.

IN 2002, the first Angolan voluntary repatriation was initiated and the number of refugees reduced to nearly 10 000 including those from Burundi, DRC and smaller numbers from other African countries.

“After the 2012 United Nations cessation clause, we made sure we sensitised them to make a decision to go home before the set date which was 30 of June 2012. By then we had about 5000 Angolan refugees. Since the 3000 voluntarily repatriated, the remaining 2000 requested the Namibian government to be locally integrated. Those who requested for local integration were 1742 and they are still here. They are now called former Angolan refugees waiting for local integration. However, Cabinet decided to locally integrate 2400 of them in Namibia. They were all informed that Osire is not going to be a camp for former Angolan refugees. It remains a camp for refugees to reside. They were also told to become self-reliant because government will not be hold accountable for their living conditions,” he said.

Both governments, he said agreed to register former Angolan refugees to obtain Angolan national documents such as identification cards and passports.

It was also agreed that the Namibian government endorse those permits in their Angolan passports.

“Other progress made is also that registration was done between February and March this year at Osire. We are happy to inform you that the passports have already arrived in Windhoek from Luanda and will be handed over from the Angolan embassy to the minister of Home Affairs on Wednesday,” he noted.

Regarding Dukwe refugee camp, Mushelenga said there are 977 Namibian refugees majority being women and children.

Thus far, about 10 Namibian refugees have registered seeking clearance to return home. “This request has been forwarded to the relevant authorities for clearance purposes. We are in close contact with the Namibian police to speed up the clearance process so that by next month, we are able to go and give a dignified reception to those who will arrive to the land of the brave,” the refugee commissioner said.

Although the date has not yet been decided on, he revealed plans that Namibia is expecting a delegation from Botswana on a fact finding mission.

Mushelenga explained that the visit is aimed at familiarising themselves with the socio-economic, security and other developmental situation in Namibia-as a way of assuring refugees in Dukwe that the situation at home is stable and peaceful.

Thereafter, a Namibian delegation consisting of relatives of the refugees housed at Dukwe, government and Namibian representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and some returnees will also go to Botswana and explain that the situation at home is peaceful and stable.

Currently, there are more 4000 refugees at Osire, of whom the majority are from DRC followed by Burundi and Rwanda.

Source : New Era