Muslims denied visas again
The Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration has again come under fire for rejecting visa applications for Muslim businessmen linked to the Windhoek Islamic Centre.
Centre director Dr Armas Shikongo said the rejections are likely to frustrate potential Middle East investors and hinted there may be a “covert agenda”.
The rejected visa applications were from representatives of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The two men from the IDB Scholarship Division - Saeed Zafar Alam and Syed Afzal Jamil - were told they should apply for a visa at their nearest Namibian embassy, which is in Egypt.
The recent visa rejections follow the ministry being accused of xenophobia and prejudice by the centre, after it also refused Saudi Arabia national Al Mesfer Abdullah entry into Namibia a few months ago.
Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Patrick Nandago said there was a reason why Namibia established embassies in other parts of the world.
He said although it was possible for Middle East applicants to seek their visas through the Windhoek office, it was better for them to do so at an embassy in or near their country of origin, so they could present themselves in person to officials.
Nandago said that distance is no excuse not to travel to the relevant embassy. Shikongo said Alam and Jamil intended to visit the Muslim community, tertiary institutions and government officials in Namibia.
He said the IDB has sponsored Muslim students at the University of Namibia (Unam) and the Polytechnic of Namibia, while the bank also has community development programmes in place that provide interest free grants to different Muslim communities in the areas of education, health, science and technology.
Shikongo told Namibian Sun this would have been the first time that the scholarship division of the bank visited Namibia, which held the promise of further funding.
“It is rather strange that the ministry expects all Middle Eastern visitors to Namibia to travel to Egypt for a visa. Once again, we are forced to ask, what is going on? We have had many guests from the Middle East before, but never have we been given such a reason,” said Shikongo.
He said if there was an embassy closer to Saudi Arabia, it would not have been such an issue.
However, the fact that the embassy in Egypt is the closest makes it expensive and can discourage investors and other visitors from coming to Namibia.
“We suspect that once again, this could be another case of human ignorance or lack of co-ordination between the ministries of home affairs and foreign affairs. The Middle East is not a country, but a region, with many countries that are all geographically near Egypt,” said Shikongo. He added the centre respects the right of the ministry to reject visas, but added that when the reasons for the rejections do not make sense “it becomes troubling”.
He appealed to government, the relevant ministries to look into the issue.
Ellanie Smit: Namibian Sun