Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2017, 11:43 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Namibia

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2003
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Namibia , 1 June 2003, available at: [accessed 23 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Namibia hosted approximately 25,000 refugees at the end of 2002, primarily from Angola. About 1,000 refugees from various other countries also lived in Namibia. More than 3,000 new refugees and asylum seekers arrived during the year.

About 1,000 Namibians were refugees in Botswana at the end of 2002. Some 1,000 Namibian refugees repatriated during the year.

Refugees from Angola

A long civil war in Angola pushed growing numbers of refugees into Namibia, including at least 15,000 new arrivals since 1999. Although Angola's war ended in mid-2002, some 3,000 new Angolan refugees arrived in Namibia seeking to escape their country's food shortages and reunite with family members who had fled earlier. Relatively few refugees repatriated during the year.

Up to 25,000 Angolan refugees remained in Namibia at the end of 2002, including 20,000 at Osire camp near the Namibian capital, Windhoek. Some 5,000 others lived on their own in urban areas or near the Namibia-Angola border. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) conducted a census in July to verify refugee numbers.

Aid workers distributed food, mattresses, blankets, and cooking utensils to newly arrived refugees at Osire camp. As in previous years, long-term residents of the camp received regular food distributions, health care, and housing construction materials. More than three-dozen hand pumps provided up to 25 liters of water per refugee per day.

Nearly 7,000 refugee students attended kindergarten and primary schools. A camp hospital began operation in mid-year to provide medical care unavailable at the camp's overcrowded health clinic.

Despite generally acceptable conditions at the camp, problems existed. A housing shortage forced some refugee families to live in tents. UNHCR reported a need for more latrines.

Although refugees constructed 16 new classrooms, overcrowding forced camp schools to conduct some classes outside. The classroom shortage also caused 600 refugee students to attend schools outside the camp.

Government harassment and detention of refugees diminished during 2002 as security improved along the Namibia-Angola border. In contrast to previous years, security personnel detained and deported fewer refugees and asylum seekers during security sweeps, although the problem did not disappear entirely.

Authorities continued to restrict the mobility of refugees living in Osire, granting travel permits only for medical, educational, and other special reasons. The government's Ministry of Home Affairs refused to ease the travel restrictions despite requests by UNHCR.

The Namibia Refugee Committee, created by the government, began to screen new asylum seekers in December to determine whether they merited refugee status.

Refugees from Namibia

A violent secessionist movement in northern Namibia's remote Caprivi Strip, fueled by the area's economic and political marginalization, caused several thousand residents to flee the area during 1998–2000.

As conditions calmed during 2001 and 2002, the Namibian government invited the refugees to return home, pledged to restore their land and property, and promised not to harass returnees sympathetic to the secessionist movement.

UNHCR encouraged the refugee population to return home and, during 2002, began an organized repatriation program to transport refugee families from their camp in neighboring Botswana to their homes in the Caprivi Strip region.

Local and national officials greeted the first busloads of returnees in August in an emotional homecoming.

Government officials provided food aid, while UNHCR offered cooking utensils and cash grants equivalent to $20. Additional returnees arrived in bus convoys in October.

Aid workers from UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross closely monitored the needs of returnees and reported few protection problems. However, the Caprivi Strip lacked health clinics, schools, and upgraded water systems, making reintegration difficult.

A drought throughout southern Africa exacerbated conditions and prompted unconfirmed reports in Namibian newspapers that some returnees faced severe hunger. Funding constraints frustrated aid workers' plans to launch community development projects and training programs in returnee areas.

At least 1,000 refugees returned home by the end of 2002. An equal number of refugees remained in Botswana.

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