Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 09:05 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Namibia

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 11 July 2007
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Namibia, 11 July 2007, available at: [accessed 18 January 2018]
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.

Refoulement/Physical Protection

The Government expelled at least 128 Angolans during the year. The Government extended prima facie recognition of refugee status to all Angolans but in March, denied refugee status to nearly 300 asylum applicants, including many from the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa), Burundi, and Rwanda, alleging that their home countries were stable.

Namibia was party to both the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1969 African Refugee Convention. Its 1990 Constitution provided for asylum and prohibited any deportation except by an authorized tribunal. The 1999 Refugees Act established a status determination process, and applied the refugee definitions and conferred all the rights of both Conventions. Applicants had 30 days from entry to apply. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) worked with Namibia Legal Help to interview applicants. As stipulated by the Refugees Act, UNHCR forwarded applications to the National Refugee Committee (NRC), which included representatives from the Councilor of Churches, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the President's Office. UNHCR participated as an observer. The law required NRC to approve or reject every application within 30 days of receipt. The Commissioner for Refugees made the final status determinations and had to give reasons in writing for any refusal. The Act provided a right of appeal but the Government established an Appeal Board only at the end of the year. In April, there was a backlog of more than 1,000 cases. During the year, Namibia recorded 242 new applications and decided 239 of them. Of these, it granted protection to 146, denied it to 67, and held 24 past the end of the year.

Refugees at Osire camp reported two cases of rape of women who had left the camp to search for firewood, and, in January, assailants gang-raped a Congolese refugee there.

During 2006, about 20 refugees returned to Congo-Kinshasa, Liberia, Angola, and Burundi with the assistance of UNHCR. Forty refugees returned to Angola on their own. In January 2007, some of the 1,000 Angolan refugees who disappeared from Nangweshi camp in Zambia made their way to Namibia's Caprivi region where locals hosted them despite Government threats to treat them as illegal aliens if they did not turn themselves in. In December, anti-corruption agents arrested two border officials for extracting bribes from would be entrants, including Zimbabweans.

Detention/Access to Courts

During the year, the Government arrested 48 refugees and asylum seekers for leaving their camp without permits or traveling with expired permits. Immigration officials released most of them after UNHCR intervened.

The Constitution extended its protections against arbitrary arrest and detention to all persons but excepted "illegal immigrants" from the right to be brought before a judge within 48 hours of arrest.

The Refugee Act provided that all recognized refugees should receive identity papers but the Government issued few of them. In February and March 2007, the home affairs ministry and UNHCR began registering all refugees and asylum seekers to issue all over six years of age three-year, renewable identification cards in June. The process began at Osire, but refugees also had two days to register in the capital, Windhoek.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

The home affairs minister required all refugees and asylum seekers in Namibia to live in Osire camp in the central part of the country. Refugees required an exit permit issued by the Namibian camp administrator in order to leave the camp and violation of the requirement could be punished by 90 days imprisonment. The Government issued exit permits for periods of up to two months. It only permitted refugees with valid study or work permits to live outside of Osire, and about 500 did so. Authorities reportedly denied passes to the members of the Association for the Defense of Refugee Rights, a refugee organization.

The rights in the Constitution to freedom of movement, choice of residence, and exit from and return to the country applied to all persons but Namibia maintained a reservation to the 1951 Convention's right to freedom of movement. The Refugees Act authorized the home affairs minister to designate areas of residence for refugees and their families and to require them to live there.

The Government made international travel documents difficult to obtain and renew. The Ministry of Home Affairs refused to renew the travel document of one refugee who worked for another branch of the Government because it had yet to act on his application for renewal of his work permit causing him to miss a regional conference. UNHCR issued 16 refugees international travel documents. The Government also granted two non-citizen travel documents to refugees.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

It was virtually impossible for refugees or asylum seekers to work legally in Namibia despite the fact that many were well educated and the economy, especially the mining, tourism, social work, engineering, transportation, and public service sectors suffered from skilled labor shortages that increased unemployment of lower skilled workers.

Although the Refugees Act permitted the home affairs minister to require employers to give refugees preferential treatment over other foreigners, refugees and asylum seekers had to apply for work permits from the Immigration Selection Board as ordinary foreigners under the Immigration Control Act of 1993. Applicants had to prove their qualifications and that there were not already a "sufficient number of persons already engaged in Namibia to meet the requirements of the inhabitants of Namibia." The Board could also require deposits subject to forfeiture in case of any violation. The Government required employer sponsorship for advertised positions, and permits applied only to those specific employers. Permits were valid for one year during which foreigners were sometimes required to train Namibians to take the jobs. Refugees also had to have work permits in order to operate businesses.

The Constitution extended the rights to work, to practice professions, to engage in business, to withhold labor, and to join unions to all persons. The Constitution extended property rights to all persons in Namibia but allowed Parliament to "prohibit or regulate as it deems expedient" the rights of non-citizens to acquire property. According to UNHCR, in Osire, a limited number of refugees obtained vehicles, bank accounts, and homes. However, Government identification document requirements for financial transactions often hindered refugees in obtaining property.

In October, the newly appointed Refugee Commissioner, Nkrumah Mushelenga, visited Osire and proposed allowing refugees to farm, market their produce, and work legally on nearby farms. In December, he wrote, "Namibia needs to take a position regarding the use of the existing locally based untapped refugee skills for the growth of this country's economy.... [Refugees] can make a meaningful contribution to both the economic growth and the social upliftment of the people." He began a re-registration in February and March 2007 to assess the skills of the refugees, stating, "The goal is to make sure that instead of a brain drain, Namibia advocates brain gain by effectively utilizing the untapped refugees' skills and expertise."

Public Relief and Education

Refugees in Osire camp were dependent on humanitarian aid. The World Food Programme announced in February 2007 that, despite its hopes that most refugees would have repatriated, it would continue feeding them until the end of the year. During the year, refugees living in the Osire camp had access to primary and secondary education. UNHCR funded the primary and junior secondary school through an implementing partner. Ten refugee teachers were also on the Government payroll. For grades 11 and 12, students had to find their own sponsorship to continue their studies outside Osire. Twelve students completed their studies during the year. The Constitution extended the right of education to all persons and mandated the State to provide primary education to "all residents."

Refugees had access to a health center maintained by the Government and a clinic funded by UNHCR, both within walking distance of the camp. Health providers referred serious cases to a district hospital. In critical cases, UNHCR funded visits to private specialists. Refugees participated in a national anti-retroviral treatment program including supplementary feeding. Namibia's inclusion of refugees impressed the UN Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa and, in April, he said the UN would favor the country's funding request.

The Government restricted outside access to the camp, but allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNHCR, and UNHCR's partners free access.

In 2006, Namibia became eligible for development funding as part of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). Namibia's September MCA Program Document said it would relax work permit requirements for service providers in the SADC region but, in 312 pages, did not mention refugees. The Government dismissed requests from the refugee community for potential development projects.

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