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Opposition challenge visa-free entry for Chinese nationals

Opposition parties are increasingly raising their concerns regarding Chinese nationals being granted visa-free entry into Namibia for 30 days.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) member of parliament Hidipo Hamata said the government extending a visa-free courtesy to Chinese nationals would only be fair if also extended to Namibians entering China.

“In essence, visa exemption is a symbol of trust between two countries. However, the Namibian government extending a visa- free courtesy to Chinese citizens arriving in Namibia for a period of 30 days would not be fair if the same privilege is not extended to Namibian citizens arriving in China,” Hamata said recently in the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) on Monday wrote a letter to Kawana requesting that the government re-evaluate the proposal as it could have an adverse impact on Namibia’s already disadvantaged youth.

“Namibia is currently facing an unemployment rate of over 55%, a staggering figure that highlights the urgent need for job creation and opportunities for our youth,” LPM youth leader Junia Kaindjee said.

Considering this challenging situation, the decision to waive 30-day visa requirements for Chinese nationals raises serious concern, he said.

“We fear that this move will further disadvantage our already marginalised and unemployed youth, limiting their access to available job opportunities.”

He said the party believes it is crucial to prioritise the interests and needs of Namibian citizens, particularly unemployed youth, who are in desperate need of support and opportunities for socio-economic empowerment.

“Considering these concerns, I humbly request that you consider the following actions: Engage in diplomatic discussions with the foreign affairs ministry of the People’s Republic of China to advocate reciprocal visa arrangements that consider the interests of Namibia’s youth. And prioritise the creation of sustainable job opportunities for Namibian youths, and ensure that local labour market demands are met before granting visas to foreign nationals,” he said.

The Namibian reported that Kawana’s proposal was included in a letter dated 22 May, which he wrote to the ministers of labour, titled ‘Proposed exemption of visa requirements between the government of the Republic of Namibia and the government of the People’s Republic of China for holders of diplomatic, official, service, public affairs and ordinary passports’.

Kawana, in parliament, said the negotiations with China started in 2019, and the agreement states that Chinese nationals with valid diplomatic, service, public affairs or ordinary passports are exempted from visa requirements to enter Namibia, for not more than 30 days, and the same rule will apply to Namibians who leave for China.

Visa requirements will still apply to those who intend to stay longer than 30 days or those who want to study or work in Namibia.

However, the implementation has been halted pending final clearance from the Office of the Attorney General subject to further consultation and then it will be submitted to the Cabinet for a final decision.

“It is clear from the main provisions of the draft agreement that issues such as work, contracts and settlement have nothing to do with the agreement since they are expressly excluded,” Kawana said.