19 February 2019

Namibia: Osire Refugees 'Dumped' At Otavi

Photo: United Nations Namibia
Osire Refugee Camp.

A modern-day good Samaritan has taken it upon himself to assist refugees from the Osire camp after they were allegedly dumped at Otavi by the authorities last year.

The Namibian understands that the army transported about 60 refugees from Osire to Otavi, and dumped them there without food and shelter.

Johannes Johannes (31), a social worker and teacher, said he learnt that two NDF trucks had 'dumped' about 60 refugees at the Kap-en-Bou and Harambee informal settlements in December last year. He then visited the settlements, where he witnessed what he has described as the dumping of refugees.

"What was so painful to me was that the refugees had no food, they had no basic necessities, especially for the children," he explained.

Johannes said he sought donations from the Otavi community, and raised N$3 000 from an anonymous donor as well as N$1 000 from a local bar and entertainment spot.

He then used the N$4 000 to buy food for the refugees, and although this was not enough, he said it would go a long way while their situation was being addressed.

"I am furious at the town council and the councillors of Otavi for bringing these people without having had any meeting or engaging the community," Johannes stressed.

One of the refugees, Manuel Enock (17) said they are struggling to get water and do not feel at home because they are constantly reminded that they do not belong nor do they pay for the water.

"This place is not for us. They are complaining. Where we used to fetch water they chase us away," said Enock.

Another refugee narrated how she struggled getting assistance at the clinic. She said she had been to the clinic before where she paid N$8 but did not receive her medication.

The defence ministry's spokesperson, Petrus Shilumbu, confirmed last week that home affairs asked the army to transport the refugees.

"The ministry of defence would like to confirm that it received an official request from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration in November 2018 to assist them with transport to ferry Angolan refugees with their belongings from the Osire refugee settlement to their preferred destination of integration in Namibia from 3 to 21 December 2018," stated Shilumbu.

Home affairs spokesperson Sacky Kadhikwa last week denied that the refugees had been dumped at Otavi.

According to him, home affairs was carrying out an integration exercise for former Angolan refugees who had applied for permanent residence permits.

These people, Kadhikwa said, were then transported to different towns such as Okakarara, Otjiwarongo, Otavi, Tsumeb, Epalela, Outjo and Windhoek in army trucks.

Some sources told The Namibian that home affairs had dumped the refugees at Otavi because the Osire camp was full.

Kadhikwa, however, dismissed this, saying Osire can accommodate more than 20 000 people. He said there are 2 368 refugees and 1 670 asylum-seekers currently staying at Osire.

Otavi mayor Martha Shipanga last week said she was not aware of the issue since she was out of town. She did not answer calls yesterday, and also did not respond to text messages.

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