Windhoek — Senior Communications Advisor at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), Melissa Anderson has confirmed that Namibia was the third largest source of new refugee protection claims referred to the IRB in 2011.
She could however not confirm the actual number of refugee protection claimants from Namibia currently in Canada. She also revealed that more than 1000 claims from Namibia were pending on December 31, 2011.
Executive Producer at the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) of the Otjiherero radio service, Uzeraije Tjazerua, estimates the number to be above 3000 after visiting the North American country some two weeks ago. Tjazerua, together with Sports Presenter of the NBC Otjiherero radio service, Rodman Katjaimo, visited Canada for two weeks to acquaint themselves with the lives of Namibians living in that country and to report about them.
Anderson explained that to be accepted as a refugee, claimants must show that they have a well-founded fear of persecution based on one of the following grounds: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
"To be found to be in need of protection, claimants must be people whose removal to their home country would subject them personally to the danger of torture, a risk to their life or the risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment," she said.
However, Anderson added that there are many other factors involved in determining a claim, including the conditions in the source country; the availability of state protection, aa well as the credibility of the claimant among others.
Tjazerua said reasons provided by asylum seekers include claims that education is not free in Namibia; discrimination against homosexuals; the disputed 51 percent unemployment rate, as well as domestic violence, among others.
Responding to suggestions that it has now become difficult for Namibians to travel to Canada, Manager of Media Relations and Communication of the Citizenship and Immigration department in Canada, Jack Branswell, said there have been no changes. "Namibians still do not require a visa to visit Canada," he said.
Lorraine Mahua, a Namibian living in Canada, alleges that Air Namibia staff demand kickbacks to allow Namibians to travel to Canada. As a result, Air Namibia decided to assess all Namibian passport holders travelling to Canada with the assistance of the Canadian government.