Refugees have rights – LAC
Government has issued The General Cessation Declaration for refugees living in the country. However Toni Hancox of Legal Assistance Centre is of the opinion that proper guidelines need to be adhered to when implementing it.
“This is a year of mixed emotions for Angolan refugees in Namibia. The General Cessation Declaration issued by the Government of Namibia is a welcome measure for those who are eager to return. However, many Angolan refugees have lived in Namibia for a long time and have built a new life here. For them, this Declaration is not so welcome,” said Toni Hancox.
According to her, it appears that the UNHCR procedural and substantive guidelines relating to General Cessation Declarations have not been adequately adhered to.
“The guidelines provide for the process of Cessation to be consultative and transparent and specifically mention that refugees themselves should take part in this process. In addition, there should be clear procedures for exemption applications to be brought and states are encouraged to offer other solutions, such as procedures geared towards local integration to refugees who have forged new lives in Namibia,” she said.
In terms of article 18 of the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia everyone in Namibia (including Angolan refugees) are entitled to fair administrative action. Failure to adhere to the UNHCR guidelines, in particular those that relate to refugees’ rights to be heard and to appeal decisions made, would amount to unfair administrative justice.
“Our mettle as a nation will be judged by how we deal with the weakest and poorest amongst us,” added Hancox quoting Chief Justice Langa of South Africa.
The Legal Assistance Centre calls upon the government to adhere to the UNHCR guidelines in the implementation of the General Cessation Declaration and to declare and implement procedures to be followed in respect of exemption applications as well as providing alternative solutions, such as local integration in defined circumstances.