Access to Land in Namibia
Since becoming independent in 1990, Namibia has seen steady economic growth, increasing at an average rate of 4.3 percent in the past five years.

However, the country suffers from steep income inequality and poverty rates. Currently, 29.9 percent of Namibians are unemployed, 27.6 percent of households live in poverty and another 13.8 percent live in extreme poverty.

Of a population of 2.2 million, 70 percent are estimated to live in rural areas with limited access to health care, electricity, food and other resources.

According to Focus on Land in Africa, a research group that studies development in the continent, these economic and social imbalances are consequences of more than a century of German colonization and South African apartheid occupation.

Another lasting effect is the unequal access to land in Namibia for those who are not considered elite. Although the country has 820,000 square kilometers of land and a small population for its size, the region’s weather patterns and topography make for some uninhabitable parts, concentrating the population into certain areas.

In 1990, the white minority which made up less than 0.5 percent of the population owned almost all commercial land in Namibia. Shortly after becoming a sovereign state, the government of Namibia introduced comprehensive land reform to alleviate land access inequalities.

Decades later, unequal access to land in Namibia continues to be an issue, Brigadier General Paul Nathinge of the Namibian Defense Forces warns could be a security risk for the country.

“Namibia is experiencing a serious problem associated with land in terms of housing and resettlement,” Nathinge told New Era. “The majority of the population are for the expropriation of the white-owned farms, which are believed to have been forcefully acquired by the colonisers […].” Nathinge added the government has thus far been unable to resolve the housing crisis for the middle and lower class in urban regions.

Individuals and groups alike have called for the government to prioritize poverty and housing relief in legislation. Nathinge warns of the dangers of public uprisings, class conflicts and racial wars in the name of equality.

He says such extreme measures make Namibians more vulnerable to manmade disasters, both internal and external. A main concern for the country is foreign aggression from developed countries in the form of an economic and military takeover to take advantage of Namibia’s abundant natural resources and geographical features.

Current land reform in Namibia centers around the redistribution of farmland, land rights registration on communal land and land title provisions in urban areas. The Namibian government is working towards redistributing at least 15 million hectares of commercial farmland to previously disadvantaged Namibians by 2020.

Ashley Leon

Photo: Flickr

Bhutan Refugees
Situated between India and China, Bhutan is an isolated Buddhist kingdom that had generated one of the highest numbers of refugees in the world compared to its population. Since 1991, one sixth of Bhutan’s people have resettled in Nepal, India and other countries.

  1. Bhutan refugees are called Lhotshampas, or ‘southerners.’ Lhotshampa people are Bhutanese people of Nepalese ancestry. In the 1980s, Lhotshampas were seen as a threat to political order and were evicted from Bhutan in the 1990s to settle in Nepal.
  2. The government of Nepal and UNHCR has managed seven refugee camps since the 1990s. In 2008, the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR jointly started refugee resettlement programs throughout the world.
  3. In 2007, more then 100,000 refugees from Bhutan lived in the seven camps of the Jhapa and Morang districts in eastern Nepal. Now, just two camps remain and the refugee population is less than 18,000 people.
  4. A group of eight countries — Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States of America — came together in 2007 to create new life opportunities for Bhutan refugees.
  5. Bhutan refugees have to go through an interview and selection process. The first refugees settled included women at risk, survivors of violence and torture and refugees with medical needs such as speech and hearing impairments.
  6. Some Bhutan refugees requested that the Nepal government send them back home. These refugees are unwilling to settle in a third country; however, the Secretary of Beldangi Camp Sanchahang Limbu said that he fears there would be no one to care for the refugees once they returned home.
  7. As of November 2015, 5,554 Bhutan refugees were resettled in Australia, 6,500 in Canada, 874 in Denmark, 1,002 in New Zealand, 327 in the Netherlands, 566 in Norway, 358 in the United Kingdom and 84,819 in the U.S.

These migrating people hope for a final destination to their journey, and countries across the world strive to help them attain this goal.

Jacqueline Venuti

Photo: Flickr

Syria_Immigration_Refugee_United States
The United States currently leads the world in refugee resettlement yet could fall short in the case of the crisis in Syria. With more than two million Syrians fleeing the country and another 6.5 million displaced within Syria’s borders, this is quite possibly the worst refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

The demand for resettlement is huge.

In a Senate hearing on January 7, State Department Assistant Secretary Anne Richard stated that the United States expected to begin resettling more refugees, increasing referral acceptances to several thousand Syrians in 2014. Additionally, the United Nations a few weeks ago stated that the United States would be accepting around 30,000 vulnerable Syrians referred for resettlement.

Unfortunately, post-9/11 immigration laws may pose some difficulties.

Under U.S. laws, not all of these vulnerable individuals can be legally received. Those people who are considered to have given ‘material support’ in some form or other to rebels are considered to have possibly supported terrorism, even if the ‘material support’ was approved by the United States.

In this manner, Syrians who gave so much as a sandwich or a cigarette to a soldier fighting for the Free Syrian Army will not be accepted, according to Illinois Senator Dick Durbin.

Human Rights First has called for the U.S. to resettle some 15,000 Syrians per year. While this perhaps should be feasible for the world’s leader of refugee resettlement, it is a particularly lofty goal for a country that will have a tough time finding Syrians with no connection to either side of the conflict.

As such, the United States is working on easing the anti-terrorism laws to some degree with respect to Syria in order to support the global effort to take in and support Syrian refugees.

The United Nations calculates that Syria has lost at least 35 years of human development from the multitude of tragedies that have occurred in the past three years. The strongest nation in the world should be doing more to work with the international community in aiding the victims of such devastating circumstance.

Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal
Photo: Think Progress