Namibia
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Five-year ban for Namibians deported at UK Govt cost

Namibians living illegally in the United Kingdom (UK) face a ban of five years from re-entering the UK if they are deported under a scheme that will pay them £3 000 (N$68 000) to resettle in Namibia.

British high commissioner in Namibia Charles Moore’s spokesperson, Lwimba Mufune, confirmed this yesterday.

“However, anyone returning to their home country using this scheme will automatically be banned from seeking entry to the UK for five years. If they return home at their own expense, they will only be banned for one year,” she said.

The UK government’s website says a re-entry ban is triggered by an individual’s non-compliance with the country’s immigration rules, including overstaying, breaching a condition attached to their permission, entering the UK illegally, or using deception in an application for entry clearance or permission to enter or stay.

The length of the ban, however, differs.

The UK’s home office has expressed its readiness to assist Namibians living illegally in the country and wishing to return home.

At the beginning of the year, the UK government announced its intention to forcefully remove foreign nationals who are in breach of the country’s immigration rules.

The country last month changed its immigration laws, making it a prerequisite for Namibians to obtain visas for entry to the country.

The Office of the Namibian High Commissioner to the UK issued a notice on Monday regarding the voluntary repatriation programme.

“The UK home office has formally advised the high commission that they are ready to assist any Namibian national in the UK with no legal immigration status or without the right to remain in the UK, and who wishes to return to Namibia voluntarily,” the notice reads.

Through the voluntary return service, the UK government is offering reintegration packages of up to £3 000 (N$68 000) per person to support individuals as they resettle in Namibia.

A total of 935 Namibians have submitted asylum applications in the UK by the end of March, up from 214 in the previous year.

Additionally, data from the home office indicates that 149 Namibian asylum applications were turned down last year.

‘PRIVATE REASONS’

The reasons for seeking asylum are not clear, as Stallone Kasuto, the spokesperson for the Community of Namibians in Great Britain, says such reasons are private.

“People cannot speculate that all young Namibians who seek asylum in the UK do so because of economic difficulties, as that is not true in all cases.

“The reasons and circumstances why these people have sought asylum in the UK are private to them, and I think we should respect that,” he says.

Mufune says the voluntary return scheme applies to all foreign nationals, including Namibians staying illegally in the UK after their application for asylum has been declined, or those having overstayed the length of their visa.

She says returnees from all developing countries, including Namibia, will receive £3 000, while nationals from other countries will receive £1 500 (about N$34 146).

In addition to the resettlement grant, the UK government will also cover the cost of return flights and assist in securing travel documents through the high commission.

Mufune says the resettlement scheme has been in operation for several years already.

According to reports, UK home secretary Suella Braverman has said the changes in visa requirements for certain countries were made “solely for migration and border security reasons” and is not a sign of poor relations with these countries.

Braverman has been pushing a policy of forcibly removing asylum seekers from the UK upon arrival and transporting them to Rwanda for their claims to be processed.

At the beginning of this year, more than 90% of Namibian asylum seekers were facing deportation in the UK.

The governments of Namibia and the UK have been in talks to find ways to facilitate the process.

Minister of international relations and cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah in June told the parliament her ministry has been engaging the British high commissioner to Namibia on the matter.

Last month 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.