Angolan refugees refuse to leave Osire

03 May 2021 | Local News

JANA-MARI SMITH



WINDHOEK

A group of 538 Angolan nationals living at Osire refugee camp are at legal loggerheads with the Namibian government, which they claim is trying to forcefully evict them and dump them on the streets.

Government has argued that the individuals are living at Osire unlawfully after their refugee status lapsed nearly nine years ago in 2012, and are refusing all efforts to integrate into Namibian society or return to Angola.

“The applicants are refusing to cooperate with the measures put in place for local integration and they have been making demands which they are not entitled to,” commissioner of refugees at the immigration ministry, Likius Valombola, said in an affidavit.

He underlined that the group is demanding housing or plots as well as money from a fund that never existed.

“The former Angolan refugees are no longer entitled to reside at Osire refugee settlement and they are no longer refugees,” he explained, as per a 2012 United Nations agreement.

Moreover, he underlined that the option to integrate into Namibian society instead of returning to Angola does not entitle them to free land.

“They were specifically informed they would not be provided with houses or plots or lands,” he said.

Integration ‘fiasco’

A group of eight Angolan men have launched a lawsuit against the Prime Minister, the immigration ministry and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in South Africa on behalf of the 538-strong group.

They are not only demanding land and a restoration of aid and refugee status, but also accuse the government of sending in the army in 2018 to chase them from the camp.

They are further asking the court to order government to cease violent threats against them.

“We, the family of 538 remaining former Angolan refugees, will never leave Osire refugee settlement until the full implementation of the integration process with the allocation of houses or building materials for each family,” they said in court documents.

They said their integration has “been a big fiasco” and claim “the reality on the ground is laughable”.

Stubborn

In his affidavit, Valombola highlighted that the 2012 UNHCR decision to withdraw refugee status from the Angolans gave them a choice to stay and integrate or return home.

“They were informed that the Namibian government and UNHCR would not provide or acquire land or plots for them, they would have to acquire the land or plots themselves.”

The group was also informed that if they could not sustain themselves, they should approach the United Nations for assistance to be repatriated to Angola.

“Former refugees are not entitled to more than Namibian citizens are entitled to. They must comply with the laws of Namibia like any other person in Namibia,” Valombola stressed.

He said the former refugees are unlawfully staying at the camp, but that government has at this stage not removed them as discussions are still underway. He denied that the army has been used at any stage to evict them.

Money

The Angolans allege that the UNHCR gave US$80 million to Namibia to assist with the integration, but government denies this.

In August 2020, the UNHCR confirmed to the home affairs ministry that no such sum was ever budgeted for or handed over by them to Namibia relating to the Angolans.

Leonard Zulu, the UNHCR South African representative, pointed out that “what is important is that the former refugees from Angola [are] asking for assistance with their local integration, and for this UNHCR is ready to help them in line with a government-approved programme”.

The group is representing itself in the case, while government attorney Heather Harker is leading the defence.

On Wednesday, the case was before High Court judge Kobus Miller for a management conference hearing. No new court date has been announced.

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