Namibia: Economic Migrants Different From Refugees - Minister

A "transporter" who helps smuggle Zimbabweans across the border fence.
31 January 2019

Windhoek — The Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration has advised the Namibia Refugee Appeal Board and the Namibia Refugee Committee to differentiate between refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants.

The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration, Maureen Hinda-Mbuende on Tuesday spoke at a workshop on Refugee Status Determination (RSD) in Windhoek to look at economic migrants because this term might be associated with asylum seekers.

Hinda-Mbuende explained people who leave their countries solely to improve their economic situation and not because they fear persecution, are not refugees, but rather economic migrants and should be referred to the department of immigration.

Namibia hosts economic migrants from neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe and Angola who have taken up petty jobs such as selling mops, brooms and fruits and vegetables on the streets.

The training is meant for the members and secretariat of Namibia Refugee Appeal Board (NRAB) and Namibia Refugee Committee (NRC) who will be able to take informed decisions on people seeking refugee status in Namibia.

This is the legal or administrative process by which governments determine whether a person seeking international protection is considered a refugee under the guiding laws.

Hinda-Mbuende said it's her conviction that after the training, cases will be dealt within a reasonable time frame and no backlog will be accumulated.

She added that the challenges of differentiating between asylum seekers and migrants will be a thing of the past. She explained that migrants are those who choose where and when to move, whereas asylum seekers are those who are forced to leave their habitual areas.

Furthermore, Hinda-Mbuende said it is important to state that Namibia being a member of the international community is directly or indirectly affected by the current security challenges of terrorism, human trafficking, money laundering and drug smuggling among others.

"Therefore, after the training, RSD officials will be able to detect those that might come under the pretext of being asylum seekers, while in reality they have their own hidden agenda that might pose threat to state security," she informed the workshop.

Commissioner for Refugees in the Home Affairs and Immigration Likius Valombola stated Namibia is home to over 6000 refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Eritrea, Nigerian and refugees from the Central African Republic.

Valombola could only provide figures of Namibian refugees living in Botswana who are about 800. He said he didn't have figures of Namibians living aboard who left the country for economic reasons.

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