UK Govt to financially aid deported Namibians

Niël Terblanché

Namibians in the United Kingdom (UK) who do not have legal immigration status will be assisted financially by the British government to voluntarily return home.

This was revealed by the International Relations Ministry Executive Director, Ambassador Penda Naanda, who stated that the British government’s Home Office had offered individual Namibians more than N$68 000 as a reintegration package, as well as the cost of their return flight.

“We have been engaging the British government on this matter for some time now, and the Home Office’s Voluntary Return Service made the offer that will now allow some people who are in the UK illegally to return home,” Naanda explained.

Besides the financial assistance, the Voluntary Return Service also offered support for departure planning, finding a dignified route of return, helping people depart the shores of the UK quickly, providing enough time for them to make suitable travel arrangements and assisting people with obtaining valid travel documents.

Naanda said the voluntary return programme was activated in the UK after the British government announced it has experienced a significant increase in the number of people applying for asylum since 2016.

The high number of asylum applications upon arrival at the UK border caused the British government to implement a revised travel regime which means Namibians will not be able to visit or transit the UK without a valid visa.

The British High Commissioner to Namibia, Charles Moore, last month said the application for asylum constitutes an abuse of the provision for Namibians to visit the UK for a limited period as non-visa nationals.

Statistics obtained from the British government’s website state that the number of people applying for asylum in the UK shot up from 137 in 2021 to 651 in 2022 and 844 in 2023. None of the asylum seekers were refused in 2021 whereas 25 people in 2022 and 34 in 2023 did not obtain asylum status in the UK.

“Unfortunately, the significant increase in asylum claims from Namibian nationals on arrival at UK borders has made it necessary for us to implement these new measures. We have regularly discussed the increase in asylum applications with the Government of the Republic of Namibia, and continue to work jointly on returning Namibian nationals who are ultimately designated to be ineligible for asylum in the United Kingdom,” Moore said in July.

Moore said that he fully understands that the imposition of a new visa regime will be of concern to the many Namibian nationals who were warmly welcomed to visit the United Kingdom as genuine visitors.

He added that there will be a four-week transition period until 16 August, during which, Namibian nationals holding confirmed tickets booked before 19 July 2023 will still be permitted to travel to the UK as non-visa nationals.

“As is standard procedure, the Namibian High Commission will have to verify if the people volunteering to return to Namibia are in fact Namibians. Just like any other sovereign country, Namibia is governed by laws and if our people live in another country illegally, we have to act because we respect that country’s laws,” Naanda said.

He added that government expects the same from other countries when their citizens are living without legal immigration status in Namibia.

“Namibia is grateful for the assistance offered by the British government,” Naanda said.

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