Namibia
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‘Europe is disrespecting us’

Minister of home affairs, immigration, safety and security Albert Kawana has lashed out at European countries “harassing” Africans who travel there.

This comes after the United Kingdom (UK) yesterday announced that Namibians will now be required to apply for a visa to travel to or transit through the UK.

The minister yesterday suggested that this ties in with the disrespectful manner in which Africans are being treated by European countries – even when they travel on diplomatic missions.

“In the world of diplomacy the underlying principle is that of reciprocity. That’s a very important principle. I am sure you know what happened to the delegation of president Cyril Ramaphosa.

“In June, Ramaphosa and his delegation were on their way to Ukraine and Russia when they were stranded at Warsaw Airport in Poland for 24 hours.

“They claimed mistreatment by the Polish authorities, including one of their female colleagues being strip-searched.

“A person with a diplomatic passport of all passports, this person is alleged to have been stripped naked. A person with a diplomatic passport?

“So, I think really it’s time for some of us to say: If you treat us this way we will also treat you in that way. We will reciprocate.

“Our people are harassed even with diplomatic passports when they go to a number of those countries for diplomatic reasons. I don’t want to mention them.

“But I don’t think Africa should tolerate that treatment without any response. There is a need to also respect Africans,” Kawana said.

In the meantime, British high commissioner Charles Moore expressed concern over the escalating number of UK asylum applications from Namibian nationals at the UK border, saying this raises issues regarding the proper use of provisions to visit the UK.

In a statement released yesterday, Moore said all Namibian nationals will now need a visa before travelling to the UK, including those who wish to visit.

The decision will commence with immediate effect, he said.
“There has been a sustained and significant increase since 2016 in the number of UK asylum applications from Namibian nationals at the UK border.

“This constitutes an abuse of the provision to visit the UK for a limited period as non-visa nationals. The changes, which come into effect immediately, will apply to all Namibian nationals travelling to the UK,” he said.

Moore said there will be a four-week transition period until 16 August.
During this period, Namibian nationals holding confirmed tickets booked before 19 July will be permitted to travel to the UK as non-visa nationals.

“I fully understand that the imposition of a visa regime will be of concern to the many Namibian nationals who we warmly welcome to visit the United Kingdom as genuine visitors.

“Unfortunately, the significant increase in asylum claims from Namibian nationals on arrival at the UK border has made it necessary for us to implement these new measures,” he said.

Moore said they have regularly discussed the increase in asylum applications with Namibia’s government, and continue to work jointly on returning those Namibian nationals who are ultimately determined to be ineligible for asylum in the UK.

NEW REQUIREMENTS … Namibians travelling to or transitting through the United Kingdom will now require visas. Photo: BBC

DEPORTATIONS

Last year, the UK expressed concern over the rising number of Namibians seeking asylum there.

This has raised eyebrows among airlines which expressed concern and refused to carry a group of around 200 Namibians to the UK.

At the beginning of this year, more than 90% of Namibian asylum seekers were facing deportation in the UK, with the two governments collaborating to find ways to facilitate the process.

In June, minister of international relations and cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said the ministry was only made aware of the potential of Namibian asylum seekers facing deportation from the UK.

The minister has in the meantime told the parliament that her ministry has been engaging the British high commission on the matter of Namibian asylum seekers.

She said they are in the process of “negotiating the most amicable process that is in line with Namibian rules and regulations, as well as international instruments on the handling of asylum seekers”.

FAILED TRIPS

In 2022, Khomas regional councillor Rodman Katjaimo used a regional council letterhead to canvas support from the British high commission for a planned trip, which ended up not taking place, with almost 200 people affected.

Moore last year said the group did not need a visa to go to the UK.

“They don’t need a visa to go to the UK, so they turn up in the UK and then claim asylum because then we have to let them in. It is being abused by a number of people,” Moore said.

He said the high commission received an inquiry on whether the group obtained visas.

“And with huge numbers of people going to the UK as a group, the airlines expressed concerns, and it was the airlines who refused to carry the group to the UK,” he said.

If airlines carry individuals who are not granted entry into the UK they are fined, he said.

“So it is a commercial decision the airlines took not to carry the first group of 51 or 52 people on the councillor’s list, because the airline was not satisfied that they were genuine visitors, and that was also in consultation with us,” Moore further said.

He said the councillor consulted his office too late on the matter.

“It was the police who stepped in the following day, because they had concerns,” he said.

Executive director of international relations Penda Naanda said they have taken note of the announcement made by the UK.

“The Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation hereby informs that the Cabinet has deliberated on the matter, and has established a committee to look into this matter.

“The government, therefore, calls upon the Namibian nation to remain calm, as the Cabinet committee will deliberate on the issue to ensure that Namibian nationals are not disadvantaged by such a decision,” he said.

Moore said applicants can apply for visas up to three months before travelling.

“Namibian visitors already in the UK will not be affected by these changes, but once they leave the UK, they will need a visitor’s visa to make any future visit,” he said.