No refugee status for foreign gays in Namibia
The Commissioner for Refugees in Namibia Nkrumah Mushelenga says Ugandan gays will not be allowed to apply for refugee status in the country.
This follows a media report in which a Ugandan refugee, who has been detained in Walvis Bay for over a year, indicated that he is seeking refugee status, citing the persecution of gays in his country.
The man, who is reportedly being held at the Narraville Police Station, says he is scared to be deported.
His fear was fuelled by the signing into law of the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act by President Yoweri Museveni in February.
Gays in that country now face hefty prison sentences for homosexual offences. Repeat offenders may be sentenced to lifelong jail terms.
Asked whether Ugandan gays can apply for refugee status in Namibia, Mushelenga replied: “Not at all. Our domestic refugee law does not have a provision granting refugee status for being gay. And we will never do that.”
He said Ugandan gays should not waste their time coming here, as they will not qualify to become refugees on the basis of their sexuality.
“We will not accept them. They are not part of the criteria we use.”
Mushelenga said there had never before been a case where foreigners apply for refugee status on the basis of their sexual orientation.
“We don’t expect it, as the law is clear on who qualifies to be granted refugee status,” he said.
Mushelenga said according to the Namibian Constitution, the State shall, where it is reasonable to do so, grant asylum to persons who reasonably fear persecution on the grounds of their political beliefs, race, religion or membership of a particular social group.
He said homosexuality is not covered in the constitution, and equally not in the refugee law.
Attorney-General Dr Albert Kawana referred queries about Ugandan gays applying for asylum in Namibia to Home Affairs and Immigration Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana.
Iivula-Ithana said she has no background about the initial story of the Ugandan detainee in Walvis Bay, which appeared in a daily newspaper last Tuesday.
“I have been on leave. I’m still on leave up to now. I don’t know what you are talking about. That is not a simple question you are asking,” she said.
Sodomy is illegal and punishable under Namibian law.
Laws against sodomy have been repealed in many countries, such as Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand and Germany.
WINDHOEK SELMA IKELA