Refugee status of Angolans to changeBy: STAFF REPORTER
ABOUT 8 000 refugees in Namibia, mostly Angolans, will be affected as the UN High Commission for Refugees moves to scale down its activities worldwide by 2010.
Cabinet has authorised the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration to collaborate with the UNHCR to formulate a policy or position on local integration and Cabinet also authorised the Ministry to terminate the continuing special status enjoyed by Angolan refugees in Namibia.
The civil war in Angola ended in February 2002 and since then there has been fundamental positive change in that country.
According to the latest press release on Cabinet decisions issued on Friday, the UNHCR ‘rationalisation process’ started in 2006 in Europe and Namibia’s Ministry of Home Affairs was informed already in 2005 that the process will result in a substantial reduction in staff and resources by the end of 2009 – including in Namibia – although the UNHCR would not withdraw from the country.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs as the Government co-ordinator on refugee and migration affairs has been in negotiations with the UNHCR representative in Namibia since then on the decision to rationalise their presence in Namibia.
“Durable solutions must be found to long-standing refugee situations, scarce resources used for the neediest populations and that governments are strengthened to address emerging issues and situations of refugees.
“A durable solution for refugees in Namibia includes voluntary repatriation and local integration,” the Cabinet press release said.
“The need for a comprehensive policy framework was identified to address the status of Angolan refugees having benefited from a special or “prima facie” status, although the situation of their country changed.”
A need for clarity on the possibility of local integration of a selected number of refugees with the skills and potential to contribute to Namibia’s economic development was also discussed.
“Skilled refugees of all nationalities should be seen as a valuable resource and should be integrated into a policy strategy to be adopted by Government,” according to the statement.
Government took different steps over the past two years to find solutions for the refugee population.
These included the verification and registration of asylum-seekers and refugees and the issuance of certificates for asylum-seekers and modified ID cards for recognised refugees.
Namibia’s refugee population stands at 8 000, the majority being women and children, of which at least 1 300 are living outside the Osire Refugee Camp.
When asylum-seekers came to Namibia in the early 1990s, the Osire camp was created and the UNHCR established schools for the children.
The rationalisation of the UNHCR’s responsibilities includes Government takeover of the UNHCR schools at Osire.
The UNHCR and the Ministry of Education have already reached an agreement on this.
The Ministry of Home Affairs recognised the need to find a durable solution for the refugees in Namibia, because if the status quo continues, it will hold financial challenges for the Ministry of Home Affairs and Government, especially from 2010 onwards.