Kapofi reveals 2 000-strong 'invasion'attempt
16 December 2019 | Government
While confirming that 42 foreigners that had fled the neighbouring country would be processed at the Osire refugee camp, Kapofi said he was informed by his counterpart in South Africa on 15 November that 2 000 foreigners, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), were demanding to be taken to the South African/Namibian border to enter Namibia.
Kapofi confirmed that originally 66 foreigners had managed to smuggle themselves into Namibia, probably with the help of truck drivers.
Of the 66 that were kept at Noordoewer after illegally entering Namibia, 24 have since been sent back to South Africa and the other 42 foreigners will be temporarily relocated to Osire, Kapofi said.
According to Kapofi when the South African authorities asked what Namibia's position was regarding the 2 000 foreigners demanding to be taken to Namibia, he made it clear that it was an unwelcome invasion by people trying to force their way into Namibia.
“That is not the way asylum seekers behave. You must seek permission if you need help and therefore South Africa did not escort them to the border.”
Kapofi said since then foreign nationals who had entered Namibia illegally from South Africa have been found in Windhoek, Otjiwarongo and Katima Mulilo, claiming to be refugees and wanting to go to Osire.
“We have found people in Windhoek who crossed illegally into Namibia. They were claiming to be refugees. We engaged them and found them to be already admitted to South Africa.”
According to Kapofi they were taken back to South Africa via Noordoewer and South Africa accepted them because it was responsible for their welfare.
“Within a few days some of these people were found in Otjiwarongo looking to go to Osire.”
He said people from the same group have been found in Katima Mulilo.
Kapofi said what Namibia was now dealing with are people who want to force their way into the country.
“When people behave in this manner they have time to think and plan how to defeat the law,” he said.
According to him there was a situation a few days ago where South African authorities stopped a group of about 400 foreigners at the border when they wanted to enter Namibia.
Kapofi said the situation started at the southern border where people were smuggled into the country by truck drivers.
“We have made efforts to search trucks and speak to truck owners, telling them that this is tantamount to human trafficking and smuggling illegal immigrants.”
Kapofi said his South African counterpart informed him that these foreigners apparently wanted to go to Canada, but were refused.
“As a refugee you do not go as a large group of people with the same problem and seek asylum.”
He stressed that there are international rules that must be followed when people want to be classified as refugees or asylum seekers.
Kapofi further confirmed that 42 foreigners being held at Noordoewer would be temporarily relocated to Osire because there were problems with their documentation and South Africa did not want to accept them back.
“Some have thrown away their papers and therefore they will go through a process of verification.”
Kapofi stressed that this did not mean that Namibia would accept them as refugees.
“We have had a situation where refugees hosted in Namibia were involved in the smuggling of medication and that is not the kind of people we want in Namibia. We want to make sure that those we admit are really in need and not those who want to impose themselves on us.”
The verification process includes verifying documentation, taking fingerprints and images and other details.
Kapofi said there was no reason to believe that these people's lives were in danger in South Africa.
Referring to xenophobic attacks on other African nationals in South Africa this year, Kapofi said South Africa had addressed the matter and apologised to SADC.
“We are not anti-refugees or asylum seekers. We do not want to be forced to take those who come and invade our country. We want to be sure people are coming to seek security,” Kapofi said.
“We cannot allow our country to be invaded by so-called asylum seekers.”
He further urged truck drivers not to involve themselves with these illegal activities and warned that the necessary steps would be taken to protect Namibia.