Asylum Seekers to Know Their Status

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By Petronella Sibeene

WINDHOEK

Following complaints about delays in the processing of applications for refugees seeking asylum, the Commissioner for Refugees Nkrumah Mushelenga says the exercise for prospective asylum seekers at Osire will commence this month.

The interviews will determine the status of asylum seekers in the country.

It is recommended that asylum seekers know their status in the country within 30 days of entry. But the status quo has been that refugees dwell in the camp for three to five years without knowing their status, a situation Mushelenga says is not proper.

“We are fighting to get our status in this country, we have no IDs all these years we have been here,” lamented one asylum seeker at the camp.

There are over 1 000 asylum seekers in Namibia. They hail from countries such as Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In March 2006, the Ministry of Home Affairs rejected at least 269 applications for asylum.

The reason cited was that most of the applicants’ countries of origin are now politically stable.

However, the refugees feel although some of these countries’ political situations could be described as stable, it is too early for them to be assured that no war or conflicts would recur.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has been encouraging refugees to return to their home countries where peace has been restored.

The call also comes in the wake that UNHCR Geneva has since 2005 reduced its funding for refugees because of limited funds.

Repatriation is seen as the best solution to this problem. Reintegration and resettlement are the other two options that have been identified.

UNHCR Country Representative Joyce Mend-Cole said last week that durable measures such as voluntary repatriation are on course. Local integration is another effort in place where refugees avail themselves and integrate in the communities.

She says resettlement to other countries is the last option.

Two years ago, at least 10 families went to Canada through the resettlement option.

In 2006, UNHCR through its efforts identified 37 families mainly of DRC and Burundi origin to go to the United States of America (USA).

Since the Namibian Government went into tripartite agreements with Angola, Rwanda and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2002/3, thousands of Angolan refugees have been repatriated and thousands more are still to decide when they will return home and take part in the peace process and help promote national reconciliation and economic reconstruction.

Since last year, over 10 000 Angolan refugees were repatriated.

According to Article 1A (2) of the 1951 Geneva Convention, the term “refugee” applies to any person who, owing to well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or owing to such fear unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country, or who, not having a nationality and being outside of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or owing to such fear unwilling to return.

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