Undetected Arrivals Pose Ebola Threat

It has emerged there are several truck drivers who enter Namibia through undesignated points of entry with unidentified Rwandese and DRC arrivals, which is likely to jeopardise the country’s detection system for the deadly Ebola virus.

Such loopholes forced the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration through the Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Health Directorate of Otjozondjupa to host an urgent meeting at Osire refugee settlement over the weekend to see how best Namibia’s immigration policy can tackle the undetected arrivals into the country.

The Commissioner for Refugees in Namibia, Nkrumah Mushelenga, who confirmed the matter yesterday said most of the unidentified arrivals come by trucks and cross Namibia’s border posts undetected by immigration authorities.

“Immigration authorities should be conducting a random search of the trucks crossing at the respective designated points of entry. This will send a warning to other truck drivers who always bring unidentified arrivals into the country without immigration or border control authorities’ knowledge. To prevent the spread of the deadly virus Ebola, we agreed to have a meeting with the Truck Driver Association to alert them on the danger of transporting unidentified people into the country,” he said.

He added that bringing unidentified people into the country could pose a threat to the safety and security of Namibian people, as in most cases, these truck drivers do not even know what the people they are transporting are carrying with or on them.

“The are undermining the integrity of Namibia’s borders. What if they are carrying explosives? And in the era of the deadly virus Ebola, bus drivers are also cautioned not to transport anyone to the Osire refugee settlement, unless or until such a time that the person has been screened and declared as clean from any Ebola symptoms and signs,” he warned.

He called for an urgent workshop aimed at raising awareness and sensitising all truck drivers about the dangers and precautionary measures to curb the spread of Ebola.

It was also suggested that pamphlets, stickers and posters should be placed at strategic places where truck drivers are most likely to see them.

Mushelenga urged the refugee community to practise honesty at all times if they are really in need of protection by the Namibian government.

The refugee community at Osire was also briefed on the danger and seriousness of Ebola, which is said to have killed over 4 000 people in West Africa since its outbreak early this year.

90 percent of the people suffering from Ebola are likely to die, which means 9 of 10 people infected are likely to die.

He proposed that a screening centre be set up in Otjiwarongo so that all asylum seekers be screened for Ebola or quarantined until they are declared “free of the virus” before they are taken to Osire.

However, a health representative from Otjiwarongo Health Directorate made it clear they are not yet ready to contain Ebola, since they only have one isolation room designated for that purpose.

This has been attributed to lack of space, lack of equipment, and most importantly lack of medical staff.

“The Otjiwarongo hospital currently does not meet the isolation standards of containing Ebola. There is only one isolation room, which can only accommodate two persons. There is only one toilet but no shower, and according to isolation standards, an Ebola suspect is not supposed to use a common shower. The hospital is also in need of protective clothing such as head gear and hand gloves,” the health official said.

He also warned truck drivers that the Namibian police have the right to send them back to have the passengers screened for Ebola at a hospital.

“Bus and truck drivers are warned to take the whole Ebola issue seriously, because human security has been and must always be priority number one to everyone. There should be g coordination between the Osire refugee settlement police and the taxi and bus drivers,” he cautioned.

The refugee commissioner also said it has been suspected that some of the refugees who are going through resettlement either to the United States of America, Canada or Australia, normally call and inform their other family members to come and join them in Namibia.

“It has also been suspected that some of the unidentified arrivals seeking entry into Namibia from DRC and other countries are just economic migrants, who are pretending to be asylum seekers so that they can one day join their other family members already resettled in the said countries,” he said.

Source : New Era