Namibia is a country in southern Africa with a population of about 2,514,000. The country was formerly a German colony, and then it became a part of South Africa before gaining independence in 1990. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Namibia:
- According to the World Bank, 1,737 refugees officially registered in Namibia in 2015. The official number of refugees in Namibia is lower than neighboring countries; Angola, for example, has 15,555, and Zambia has 26,447. However, according to the Namibian government, the World Bank’s count of the number of refugees in Namibia is incorrect. Many refugees and asylum seekers have moved from designated refugee camps to other parts of Namibia. The government estimates that there were actually more than 6,000 refugees in Namibia in 2015.
- From 1998 to 2001, the number of documented refugees in Namibia skyrocketed from 3,820 to 30,885. The majority of these refugees came across Namibia’s northern border from Angola, where fighting between the Angolan government and rebel group UNITA was taking place.
- The official number of refugees in Namibia peaked at 30,885 in 2001. Since that time, that number has decreased drastically. Namibia saw a slight uptick in the number of officially stateless people from 2007 to 2010, and again in 2013.
- Namibia’s Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana described the current state of refugees in Namibia to New Era, a government-owned media outlet in Namibia. “Roughly 80 percent of these refugees are Congolese. A few are from Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe and other countries, with about 30 asylum seekers arriving at Namibian borders every month,” she said.
- The Congolese refugees in Namibia have left behind a state of constant war. In 1996, Rwanda invaded the DRC in pursuit of the perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide. This initial conflict destabilized the eastern DRC, and over the last two decades, multiple paramilitaries have warred with each other and the Congolese government for control of the region and its resources. This conflict, sometimes dubbed “Africa’s World War,” is the main source of refugees in Namibia.
- After 23 years, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees ended its campaign to serve refugees in Namibia in 2015. Despite the government’s claim that there were more than 6,000 refugees, the U.N. contends that the number has dropped below 5,000. This, as well as Namibia’s upgrade to a middle-income nation at the time, were the U.N.’s justifications for its pull-out.
- Many of the refugees in Namibia live at the Osire camp—a specifically designated area for refugees in Namibia. However, there have been mixed accounts about the quality of conditions at the camp. In 2009, a local human rights organization smuggled 41 people out of the camp after they had received death threats. The refugees were denied access at the border of Botswana and remained in “no man’s land” between Botswana and Namibia.
- Although the U.N. stopped direct refugee operations, the international union continues to support refugees in Namibia by lending resources from its regional office in Pretoria, South Africa.
- Namibia has begun resettling its refugees in other countries that will take them, known as “third countries.” In 2016, Namibia resettled more than 200 refugees to other countries, citing a lack of ability to provide for them.
- The U.N. conducted research on refugees at the Osire camp to test for HIV; the organization also provided the refugees with information on how to avoid contracting the virus. The program was a moderate success, as it successfully educated refugees at the camp about HIV/AIDS. However, the data also shows that the percentage of refugees at the Osire camp with HIV/AIDS exceeds the percentage of those from the surrounding areas (38.3 percent compared to 30.2 percent).
These facts about refugees in Namibia demonstrate that despite a lack of statistical clarity, the nation is still working to accommodate those in need.
– David Mclellan