7 January 2013

Namibia: Missing ID Causes Friction

A permanent resident in Namibia, threatened with jail time because he failed to travel with an identification document, now wants to sue an immigration officer for loss of income.

Markus Weiss, who is a permanent resident in Namibia since 1991, said the immigration officer, 24-year-old Siswaniso Aldrin, refused to let him through a road block on December 20 last year, because he could not produce an identity document.

Weiss had flown from Windhoek to Ondangwa and was then transported by car to Oshikango for work on December 19.

At that time, he said, there were no problems with either the immigration or Police officers at the roadblock who let him and the driver of the car through without any questions asked or ID requested.

However, the next morning on his way back to the Ondangwa airport, he was confronted by Aldrin who insisted that he either present an ID document or his passport.

Because he had neither, he presented his valid Namibian driver's licence and Air Namibia's return flight ticket back to Windhoek to the immigration officer.

According to Weiss, the immigration officer was not interested to look at the two documents.

After much to-ing and fro-ing, Aldrin then threatened to lock Weiss up.

"I asked him 'For what?', but he did not say anything," Weiss recalled.

A government official who had since arrived at the roadblock in an official vehicle eventually intervened and suggested that Weiss have a copy of his passport faxed to his iPad, which Weiss did after he phoned his wife, a Namibian, to send the documents.

"Fortunately she was at home and we had the facilities to send a copy of the passport," Weiss said.

It was only then that the immigration officer was prepared to let Weiss get on with his journey, but by then he had already missed his flight scheduled for 08h30 that morning.

"I have lost an income, I have not been able to honour my appointments. I had to pay for the day I had to overstay at Ondangwa. The immigration officer did not have the right to keep me there at the roadblock. I have lost a whole day of work and was threatened with arrest. The Ministry of Home Affairs must issue a statement to either say what its officers are entitled to do and what the rights of residents are," Weiss said.

"This action was just to make my life difficult; he [the immigration officer] did not even look at my driver's licence or flight ticket. I understand that his motivation might have been to be on the look-out for illegal immigrants from Angola or elsewhere, but I had valid documents," Weiss said.

Weiss is in the process of consulting with a lawyer to discuss his legal options.

The Chief of Immigration in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, Elizabeth Negumbo, insisted that the Immigration Control Act states that people should carry with them a "means of identification".

However, she said, a driver's licence does not constitute a "means of identification", but only an ID, a passport, or a birth certificate if the person has not yet come of age.

She further said that immigration officers at roadblocks must determine if persons are legally in the country.

Police Deputy Commissioner, Edwin Kanguatjivi in December last year was quoted as having said that it is "not a crime not to carry an ID all the time".

Kanguatjivi was also quoted as having said that the police are looking for a number of wanted suspects and that Namibia has a big problem with illegal immigrants and that travellers over the festive season should produce identification when asked by the police.

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