April 27, 2012

Angolan refugees get ultimatum

About 7000 Angolan refugees at the Osire refugee camp near Otjiwarongo have until the end of June this year to voluntarily return to their home country or face deportation as illegal immigrants in Namibia. If they don't voluntarily return by June 30, they will have to apply for visas in order to stay in Namibia. The drastic step came after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ceased to accord refugee status to Angolan nationals because peace and tranquility have returned to Namibia's northern neighbour.

Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Patrick Nandago confirmed to The Namibian that the swift move will not only apply to Angolan refugees in Namibia but also to those living in other countries such as Zambia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Refugee students who are currently in Grade 10 to 12 will be allowed to complete their studies here. It has also been decided that Angolan refugees from Huambo, Bie and Benguela provinces should be escorted up to the reception centres at Menongue and Namacunde in Angola.

"By the 30th June the Angolan refugees will be taken off the ministerial database and the UNHCR will cease to provide them with food rations as well as financial support," Nandago said. The Home Affairs Ministry has in the meantime come up with a policy for local integration of refugees who might not be willing to go back, but Nandago said this would be the last resort. "Local integration would be our last resort because we have thousands and thousands of Namibians who are also facing many challenges and need to be resettled, and integrating such a huge number would just be unsustainable," said Nandago.

Angolan refugees have been unwilling to go home and by the end of 2011 only 28 Angolans had returned. In January this year only eight registered for voluntary repatriation. Nandago said as part of the repatriation process the refugees are given US$200 per adult and US$100 per child, plus food packages upon leaving and when they arrive in Angola. (angop)


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