N$2.8m set aside for a new refugee camp in Zambezi
The Namibian government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will spend approximately N$2.8 million on the construction of a new refugee office and campsite at Katima Mulilo in the Zambezi region.
The construction phase of the offices are at a high level and are nearing completion.
The Namibian government will contribute N$1.8 million, while the UNHCR will give N$1 million.
In an interview with The Villager this week, the Commissioner of Refugees at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, Nkrumah Mushelenga said Namibia is still receiving refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi.
He said the Zambezi office will be used to clear the inflow of refugees mainly entering from Zambia, who are refugees who flee from Burundi, Rwanda and the DRC.
“The Burundi situation has worsened, and thus we need to put our units at readiness. We receive 25-30 refugees monthly, and the majority of refugees are usually women and children,” Mushelenga explained.
The only refugee camp in Namibia currently is the one at Osire, which hosted a total of 6100 refugees. 3746 of the refugees are active ones, while 2354 are inactive refugees.
Mushelenga explained that inactive refugees are those whose whereabouts officials are not sure of because they have moved out of the designated areas.
“We have an opportunity to relocate these inactive refugees through strategic actions, and we thus communicate with locals to inform refugees who are inactive to report themselves at the headquarters during the stipulated periods”, he continued.
In terms of sustaining the refugees, Mushelenga said from the Namibian government’s side, there is no financial framework set up as the refugees are the responsibility of the UNHCR.
Meanwhile, the office of the UNHCR in Namibia will be phased out at the end of this month, but the country will still need to maintain financial assistance for the refugees in the country.
“The UNHCR should still be transferring funds to Namibia, and there should be a reliable auditing system to ensure that the funds are not misappropriated. There should be a joint, transparent accounting system capable of monitoring the funds transferred”, Mushelenga stated.
Currently, the funds are being managed by Africa Humanitarian Action of Namibia (AHA). AHA is an international organisation, whose services he feels can be rendered by a Namibian organisation.
“What AHA can do is just to transfer the skills and knowledge to Namibia, and the funds can be managed by Namibia. Currently, we have a debate of priorities in terms of what the refugees need, and thus it would be better for the government to manage the funds”, Mushelenga noted.
UNHCR representative Dr. Lawrence Mgbangson said in 2014, the UNHCR spent N$13.5 million on refugees, and in 2015 they had a budget of N$10 million.
These funds were divided amongst the partners of the UNHCR and managed through AHA, with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, the Ministry of Safety and Security and the Ministry of Health and Social Services all receiving a share for the care and maintenance of refugees.
Mgbangson said Namibia is currently hosting 2654 refugees and asylum-seekers, with 80% of them being from the Democratic Republic of Congo, while the rest are from Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe and other countries.
“There are about 30 asylum-seekers who will arrive in Namibia in a month. The aim is to reduce the number of refugees and asylum-seekers in Namibia through resettlement and local integration”, he stated.
In addition, the government is busy with the process of the local integration of 2400 former Angolan refugees, where the UNHCR donated N$1.5 million towards permanent residence permits.
“The UNHCR is donating a further N$1 million for the finalisation of the issue of residence permits. The identification and travel documents will be provided by the Government of Angola, while the Namibian government is yet to finalise the issuance of permanent residence permits for the Angolans”, Mgbangson added.
A total of N$6 million was spent on the local integration process.
Meanwhile, 986 Namibian refugees are still in Botswana. About 600 of these refuges are expected to return to Namibia as part of the secession clause.
A secession clause is a clause which states that people may not be regarded as refugees anymore when the situation in their country calms down.
In addition, the secession clause says Angolans will no longer be regarded as refugees, with the UNHCR having repatriated about 3200 Angolan refugees in 2012.
Mgbangson said from 2003 to 2005, the UNHCR repatriated between 10 000 to 15 000 Angolan refugees.
by Charmaine Ngatjiheue