FRANKFURT – Air Namibia faces high transportation and other costs related to the deportation of illegal African immigrants from Europe on its flights, who increasingly prefer entering Europe using Air Namibia flights.
Many Africans after securing the mandatory Schengen Visa to enter the Euro Zone, usually destroy their passports once they are airborne and therefore have to be deported back to Africa via Windhoek as their departure point. A week ago four undocumented Africans who entered Frankfurt on Tuesday via Windhoek had to be deported back to Namibia on the Air Namibia flight SW-285. In line with European law “the transporting company has to take care of the backhaul,” and this is the reason “Air Namibia has to cover all deportation costs,” explained an Air Namibia manager. “The costs Air Namibia has to cover due to illegal immigration are significantly high. But for legal reasons we are not able to mention any precise figures,” said Bekim Dura, Air Namibia’s Country Manager in Germany.
According to Air Namibia MD Theo Namases one recent deportation cost the airline £20 000 (N$324 000), because the airline is obliged to shoulder all costs associated with the so-called backhaul or deportee(s). In this case Air Namibia had to pay the hotel accommodation and the airfare of the deportee, including those of three German police officers who accompanied the deportee. She said the reason the deportee had to be accompanied by three police officers was because he became unruly and presented a safety risk for other passengers.
Explained Dura: “Let me say that although illegal immigration is a serious issue Air Namibia has to deal with, we are not the only airline having that problem. Almost every international airline is affected. In general, illegals tend to cloud their origin. This is the reason why the large majority of them do not use their national airlines.”
The majority of the immigrants who destroy their documents in mid-air are of Somali and Congolese origin and all of them are under 40 years of age. “This is surely a significant problem, which needs to be resolved on many levels. The challenge for politicians on both continents will be to reduce … illegal immigration and to offer incentives for people to remain in their home countries by offering better prospects. All possible measures to get this problem under control are being taken, including special training for all Air Namibia staff by the German border police. And although it is highly unlikely that illegal immigration can be stopped completely, Air Namibia will do its utmost to improve the situation.”
All people entering the European Union without valid identification documents or those with fake identity documents and passports are classified as illegal immigrants. Several efforts to get more information from officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration proved futile yesterday, as most of them were simply unavailable. Each year thousands of Africans, some of them illegal immigrants, migrate to Europe in search of better life prospects.
By Chrispin Inambao