By Charity Musa WINDHOEK The Commissioner for Refugees, Nkrumah Mushelenga, suggests institutions responsible for the administration of refugees and asylum-seekers should introduce income-generating projects and not be entirely dependent on donors. Mushelenga said the institutions faced many challenges as the refugees needed to be self- sufficient in terms of food availability through short- and long-term poverty alleviation projects. He said the institutions also faced obstacles of separating refugees and asylum-seekers from economic migrants and to establish a reliable data statistic system. Mushelenga said this during a three-day workshop on age, gender, diversity and mainstreaming. The workshop is being facilitated by UNHCR staff from Geneva and South Africa. He said the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration considered the workshop a step in the right direction because it focused on issues relating to child protection, adolesence and sexual exploitation. “The aim of the workshop is to improve the living conditions of refugees and asylum-seekers and to protect older persons and those with physical and mental disabilities,” he said. Mushelenga said refugees and asylum-seekers needed to participate, communicate and access information. He said the workshop was different from those held previously, where institutions were responsible for refugees’ affairs, planned refugee-related activities and projects including their ration in settlement without involving the people it concerned in the planning process. “Time has come to gradually involve elders, women, children and the youth to gear them towards improving their living conditions,” Mushelenga said. He said refugees not only needed physical protection, but also psychological, educational and social empowerment. He said refugees were human beings who had been forced out of their country of origin by circumstances beyond their control for fear of persecution on the grounds of religious and political beliefs. He said government saw the role the UNHCR and other organizations played to empower projects that would make the refugee society become both self-reliant and economically reliant. And UNHCR representative, Joyce Mends-Cole, said the workshop was important because it intensified efforts to place refugees at the centre of the development of protecting strategies and operational planning and to strengthen partnership with the youth, NGO’s and the private sector. Mends-Cole said the workshop promoted dialogue with women, girls and boys of diverse ages to ensure that the voices of those previously excluded and marginalized were heard and to incorporate them into a programme planning and allocation of resources. She said that, because of financial constraints, emphasis was placed on finding solutions for over 6ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â 000 refugees and asylum-seekers by encouraging them to speak out about their situation, hopes and voluntary repatriation. Mends-Cole said there was need for freedom of movement for refugees to end the dependency on government and UNHCR and to allow their children to pursue their education beyond the grade ten limits, which was available at the camps. She said girls were supposed to be protected from exploitation and sexual abuse, and women from domestic violence as well as empowering them in decision-making.
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