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Namibia engaging UK on visa rules

There have been no reports to the Namibian government of the country’s expatriates, particularly the Ovaherero, being harassed, stigmatised, or criminalised as trespassers and delinquents in the United Kingdom (UK).

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

Nandi-Ndaitwah told parliament last week her ministry has been engaging the British High Commission on the matter of the 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”.

Nandi-Ndaitwah, who is also the deputy prime minister, was replying to queries from Landless People’s Movement (LPM) parliamentarian Bernadus Swartbooi.

Swartbooi asked whether the ministry is aware of cases of mistreatment and whether there have been talks to resolve threats of deportation of Namibians from the UK.

Swartbooi also enquired about reports that UK visa laws will change, requiring Namibians to possess visas as a prerequisite for entry into the UK.

Nandi-Ndatiwah said she met with British high commissioner Charles Moore in February, when he confirmed that the British Home Office reviews its visa regime every six months.

“To this end, several countries, including Namibia, that were previously exempt from visas will henceforth be required to have visas prior to arrival in the UK and Great Britain.

“He further informed me that the date of effect will be communicated once his parliament has taken a decision,” Nandi-Ndaitwah said.

She said a virtual meeting with her British counterpart, scheduled for 7 March, was postponed.

“Up to now, as I am talking to you, they have not come back to us. Nevertheless, on our side, we keep engaging them to understand and inform them that, as members of the United Nations, they are obliged to comply with the international instruments that govern asylum seekers,” she said.

Also, the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation has not been officially informed whether the bill has indeed been passed in the British parliament.

Swartbooi questioned the decision to change British visa requirements, particularly given that Namibia is a member of the Commonwealth.

The LPM leader queried whether the Namibian government has equally contemplated implementing visa requirements for British citizens entering Namibia.

According to Nandi-Ndaitwah, the British were concerned about the influx of asylum seekers, some of whom abused their stay in the country.

“They have their own immigration laws. Even in Namibia, we have our own immigration laws. And if a situation occurs where any citizen of any country violates that immigration law, we also do the same,” she said.

After learning about the plans to change visa regulations, Nandi-Ndaitwah said the government formed a committee that would travel to the UK if the government decided to deport Namibians.

She said the aim of the committee was to “fully understand what the conditions were that led them to take such a decision”.

Last month, Moore expressed concern over the large number of asylum seekers attempting to enter the UK.

He had said his office was working with the Namibian government to try to find a solution to the matter.

“No decision has been taken yet, but we are still quite concerned by the number of asylum-seeking opportunities to the UK,” he said.