Namibia to spend R10 million on ex-Caprivi refugees

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Namibia to spend R10 million on ex-Caprivi refugees                               

Timo Shihepo

Windhoek - The Namibian government will spend R10.7 million on integrating 800 refugees back into the system after Botswana started with the process of deporting them from Dukwi refugee camp.

Over 3 000 people sought refuge in neighbouring Botswana between 1998 and 1999 after an unsuccessful secession attempt of Caprivi (now Zambezi region) from Namibia in 1998.

Led by Mishake Muyongo, the Caprivi African National Union (CANU) party and the Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA) wanted the then Caprivi region to be an independent nation.

But the Namibian Defence Force, with the support of the Special Field Force, discovered and raided a CLA training camp. That resulted in more than 100 armed CLA men and more than 2 800 civilians fleeing into Botswana.

Botswana granted them refugee status and housed them at the Dukwi refugee camp.

By 2018, about 2 100 returned home and integrated into society but many others refused to leave, fearing that it was not safe to return home. It is a stance that has irked Botswana to the point that the government has revoked their refugee status, meaning that they are now considered to be illegal in that country.

Speaking to this reporter on Wednesday, Commissioner for Refugees in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, Likius Valombola, said that Namibia was ready to host its citizens.

He said government has allocated a budget of R$10.7 million to integrate these refugees into the system.

On Tuesday, 93 refugees arrived in Namibia, on Thursday, about 170 refugees were expected, on Monday government expects about 148, and next Wednesday the government is expecting to receive 157. The same number is also expected next week Friday, while about 130 are expected on 1 October.

Should the process go as planned, the whole 855 remaining refugees would then have been back home.

“These are Namibians, even though some were born in Botswana. Namibia is ready to receive its nationals. Those that have already arrived in Namibia have received what is due to them by the Namibian government.

“We have started to transport them to various villages. There are programmes that are being run by various ministries and these people will benefit. Government will give them building materials to have a roof on top of their heads and giving them food enough for three months.

“Government will also give US$300 to people aged 13 and above while also giving a once off US$100 to kids aged 12 and below.

“The fact that these people didn’t sign up for voluntary repatriation means that they are going to miss out on benefits from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“Those that have availed themselves voluntarily received benefits. Since UNHCR is not part of this exercise, the government of Namibia has now made food available to them. Well, good news is that the rate that Namibia is offering is the same as what the UN was offering. It is a once off grant to enable them to settle. The whole exercise will cost about N$10.7 million,” said Valombola.  

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