By Chrispin Inambao WINDHOEK The Commissioner for Refugees, Nkrumah Mushelenga, last week undertook a familiarization visit to the Osire Refugee Camp where he acquainted himself with the situation first hand by meeting the various categories of refugees and asylum-seekers at the camp. Among the various categories of refugees met by Mushelenga and his team were orphans, children attending kindergarten, community leaders and the disabled. He said despite the tripartite accord signed by Namibia, Angola and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in the footsteps of a durable peace that came after the end of the civil war in Angola, its nationals are still in the majority at the camp. He said there have been several instances where Angolan nationals, who initially partook in the voluntary repatriation exercise, have travelled back to the camp with their children, whom they are reregistering back into the Namibian education system. Mushelenga said Angolan refugees wanting to come back to Namibia are free to do so but should not come under the guise of being refugees since they have already been repatriated to their motherland. They should utilize existing immigration channels by applying for study and work permits and other immigration documents. He said refugees trekking back to Namibia from Angola unnecessarily inflate the number of immigrants at the sprawling camp located some 230 km northeast of Windhoek. During his visit he was also notified that many African refugees do not possess any documents indicating their status, and he encouraged the refugees whose applications were rejected to resubmit their applications with the Refugee Legibility Committee for consideration. Mushelenga feels that since his information-sharing sessions, more refugees may apply with the committee that grants refugee status, mainly after assessing the situation on the ground in the country of their origin, among other aspects. Documents from the Refugee Legibility Committee indicating if a particular refugee’s application has been rejected, approved or is still pending are also piling up at the camp administrator’s office at Osire because applicants have a tendency not to collect them. “I want to appeal to all who have gone through the interview process to go and inquire at the office at Osire,” said Mushelenga, who visited the camp for the first time since he was appointed in the middle of this year as the new Commissioner for Refugees. Mushelenga said he intends reducing the refugees’ current dependency on donor rations by introducing a green scheme on a piece of land measuring some nine square kilometres on which they could plant cabbages, tomatoes, millet and maize, among others. “They are getting enough rations but we also spoke about deviating from the donor syndrome by increasing their crop production. “We are trying to consult the relevant authorities to see if refugees can sell their produce at Otjiwarongo and at Okahandja once the plan gets off the ground,” enthused Mushelenga. The commissioner said the existing network of five boreholes at the camp could be used to irrigate the various crops that could be grown with the aid of various stakeholders. He also said he wants to cultivate a culture of confidence and trust between refugees and the commercial farmers neighbouring the camp, to put in place a system whereby refugees could work on farms without being exploited, as is the case now. He said farmers seeking refugee labourers might do so through the camp administrator to ensure refugees are paid their just dues, unlike in the past when some farmers took advantage of their status and refused to compensate them for their labour. He feels once proper arrangements are put in place no refugees would be exploited.
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