Namibia hosted nearly 15,000 refugees at the end of 2003, including some 12,000 from Angola, about 1,000 refugees from Congo-Kinshasa and more than 2,000 new refugees and asylum seekers arrived during the year, primarily from Angola.

More than 4,000 Angolan refugees in Namibia repatriated during the year.

About 1,000 Namibians were refugees in Botswana at the end of 2003. Three Namibians repatriated during the year.

Refugees from Angola

Embroiled in a long and brutal civil war, Angolan refugees have fled to Namibia for nearly 30 years, with some 15,000 new arrivals since 1999. Although conflict ended in Angola in mid-2002, nearly 1,000 new Angolan refugees arrived during the year, primarily to escape food shortages and reunite with family members. Unlike previous years, large numbers of Angolan refugees returned home in 2003, more than 4,000 in UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) organized repatriations in June and several hundred spontaneously. UNHCR provided identity documents, ground transportation, food rations, pre-departure medical screening, and landmine risk and HIV/AIDS awareness training to repatriating Angolan refugees.

Despite relative peace, many Angolan refugees remained reluctant to repatriate, citing fears of continued insecurity in their homeland. Nearly 12,000 Angolan refugees remained in Namibia at the end of 2003, most of whom resided at Osire camp near the Namibian capital, Windhoek, where UNHCR provided food, housing, health care, and education, including access to a clinic, a hospital, and a library.

Humanitarian agencies renovated and built refugee houses, three centers for newly arrived refugees, a center for disabled refugees, 280 additional latrines, and a new Institute of Foreign Languages. Agencies maintained health, water, and sanitation facilities, and offered HIV/AIDS awareness training and vaccinations. More than 7,000 refugee students attended two kindergartens, a primary school, a secondary school in the camp, but voluntary refugee repatriations reduced primary school enrolment rates by almost 20 percent in 2003. Expanded camp infrastructure and a reduced refugee population resulted in improved camp life for refugees in Osire during the year.

Namibian authorities required refugees to remain in designated camp locations and only granted travel permits for medical, educational, and other special reasons. The Ministry of Home Affairs refused to ease the restrictions despite UNHCR's repeated requests. When refugees protested cuts in kerosene rations, Namibian police shot one and arrested 24 others. Namibian authorities also arrested refugees for trespassing onto farms bordering the camp during the year. UNHCR intervened in these cases, resulting in the release of detained refugees. The Namibia Refugee Committee, created by the government, started screening new asylum seekers in the beginning of the year, but asylum seekers angrily protested the backlog.


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