11 June 2012

Namibia: More Angolan Refugees Repatriated

A group of 141 Angolan refugees that resided at the sprawling Osire refugee camp in the Otjozondjupa Region were yesterday handed over to the Angolan government as part of the tripartite voluntary repatriation.

The group consisted mainly of women and children.

The tripartite voluntary repatriation involves the governments of Namibia and Angola and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and is underway before the cessation clause is invoked that will change the status of refugees

Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration officials are working around the clock to make sure they abide by the secession clause that states that after June 30, all Angolan refugees in Namibia will lose their refugee status.

With the oil-rich state having enjoyed 10 years of peace and stability, statistics from the ministry indicate that over 3 000 Angolan refugees that lived at the Osire refugee camp have voluntarily registered for repatriation. Over 1 500 have already been repatriated.

The ministry also indicated that programmes and policies have been constituted by the Angolan government to ensure the refugees are successfully reintegrated into the society.

The refugees received US$200 per adult and US$100 per child from the UNHCR upon departure from the refugee camp.

In addition, they will receive food rations for three months from the UNHCR and the Angolan government. They will also be given land and materials to build their homes.

The first group of refugees was repatriated in February.

The Commissioner for Refugees in Namibia Nkrumah Mushelenga described the reception in Angola as a "dignified one".

"We are glad that most of these people have voluntarily decided to return to their land of birth. We want to abide by the secession clause by all means because as far as we are concerned, the clause indicates June 30, unless UNHCR states otherwise," Mushelenga said.

Mushelenga further indicated that when the clause expires, Namibia would not deal with Angolan refugees.

"We had some challenges, but they were manageable. Things like inadequate space at reception centers. As in the case of today, we had to repatriate 300 refugees but due to space, we could only bring 141," he charged.

The Namibian government has availed trucks from the Ministry of Defence to transport goods and other belongings of the refugees.

The refugees were provided with quality tents, meals and adequate sanitation facilities at the reception centre.

"We wanted to make sure these people do not come and start from scratch, therefore we have availed the resources so that they can travel with all their goods," he said.

Meanwhile, the Governor of the Kwando Kubango Province, Junero Camelo, welcomed the group and urged them to adapt to their new environment.

"Some of you left the country more than 20 years ago, some still have memories of the war but I can assure you that the country is peaceful," he said.

"It is normal to have a fear of the unknown but we hope you will adjust accordingly," he said.

UNHCR Country Representative Dr Lawrence Oba Mgbangson applauded the Namibian government for hosting the Angolan refugees "for such a long time".

"As you can see all these people are healthy and in good condition. We would like to thank the Namibian government for taking care of the refugees and for allowing them to voluntarily be repatriated," he said.

Until recently, Namibia hosted 4 350 Angolan refugees of whom 3 908 were accommodated at the Osire refugee camp.

The voluntary repatriation process will continue every week until June 30 this year, following which a spontaneous repatriation process will commence.

Under the spontaneous repatriation process, the Angolan refugees would continue to leave the country, but without assistance from the Namibian government or UNHCR, explained Mushelenga.

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