Osire Refugees Denied Asylum

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK At least 269 asylum seekers currently residing at Osire Camp have been denied refugee status by the Namibian government. The majority are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Liberia and Uganda. According to the Chairman of the Association for the Defence of Refugee Rights (ADR) at Osire MacGoddins Lushimba, on March 8, 2006, refugees received responses from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration indicating that their requests for refugee status had been rejected. The reason cited was that most of the applicants’ countries of origin are now politically stable. However, these refugees are complaining that though some of these countries’ political situations could be described as stable, it is too early for one to be assured that no war or conflicts would recur. Yesterday, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Programme Officer in the Southern African Region Juan Shoucheng addressed the ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚±6 000 refugees at the camp. He informed them that UNHCR Geneva has since last year reduced its funding for refugees given its limited resources. The best solution to this problem, according to the programme officer is repatriation. Reintegration and resettlement are the other two options that have been identified. Last year, at least 10 families went to Canada through the resettlement option. This year, UNHCR through its efforts has identified 37 families mainly of DRC and Burundi origin to go to the United States of America (USA). These 98 people will during April and May travel to Windhoek for an interview with the American immigration officials and are expected to leave for the States in August and early September 2006. Apart from that, another 55 cases are being handled for resettlement in the near future. Meanwhile, about 100 refugees at Osire are facing a shelter problem after their houses collapsed due to heavy rains. Lushimba confirmed to New Era yesterday that that since last month, the area has been receiving heavy rains. He added that the UNHCR and implementing partners are informed about the situation and they will respond to it as soon as resources are found. Further complaints related to restricted movement of refugees. As agreed, refugees at Osire Camp are allowed to leave the camp on Tuesdays and Fridays provided they obtain a police pass, but they are expected to be back in the camp before the day ends. “People are complaining that there is no freedom to find a job and also our children can go to school up to grade 10 and cannot go beyond that,” lamented Lushimba.