WINDHOEK, 01 OCT (NAMPA) -
About 160 members of a Zimbabwe-based church group, who were detained at the Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) since Sunday, have left the country.
This religious group, among them 12 children, did not have the required documents to enter Namibia. They belong to the Johane Masowe Echishanu Apostles Church in Zimbabwe. Speaking in the National Assembly on Thursday, Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana said the pilgrims were not permitted into Namibia because they did not possess the required visas to perform their religious functions in this country.
"We have agreements with neighbouring countries that facilitates the granting of entry permits for nationals of our neighbouring countries for a given number of days. However, when such nationals seek to enter our country for the purposes of work, in this case religious activities during the Baptism Convention of the inviting organisation, then a work permit is required," she explained.
Iivula-Ithana noted that the pilgrims did not make prior applications for such visas and on the basis of the provisions of the Immigration Control Act, 1993 (Act No.14 of 1993), they were refused entry.
She noted that there were unaccompanied minors in the bunch and if they were permitted into the country, Namibia could have been labelled as a human trafficking destination.
The Home Affairs Minister noted that in today's world, religious sects are becoming fundamental and more inclined to use violence as a means of propagating their beliefs and calling attention to their causes.
Therefore, it is important that the law-enforcement agencies and the border and immigration officials are assisted to defend and protect Namibia's sovereignty and integrity as a nation, "not only for security reasons but also for social reasons".
"I am told that the pilgrims intended to wade in the Kavango River and baptise people during their crusade across the country. We cannot allow this. Apart from the hazard presented by crocodiles in the Kavango River, who will be responsible for any loss of life?" she asked.
She added that in Windhoek, some church groups are known to work along the hillsides while there are no ablution facilities there. "It is dry and any attempt to light fires may present a danger to life and property'.
The minister, therefore, urged Namibians to understand that as a government, it means well and will continue to act in their best interest.