Scores of Angolan immigrants suffering for documentation
Hundreds of Angolan nationals that have been living in Namibia country for protracted periods of time wishing to be naturalised are struggling to acquire citizenship and are now left destitute, The Villager has learnt.
About 800 Angolan nationals based in the Oshana region who have been living in the country for close to four decades are amongst the affected.
They are part of hundreds of people who fled from Namibia’s northern neighbour during the struggles for independence of both countries that was fought predominantly in southern Angola.
Many are now claiming to be destitute as they cannot claim social benefits such as old-age grants because of a lack of relevant Namibian national documents.
All hopes of being integrated into the Namibian society by officially acquiring citizenship status through acquiring Namibian residency permits is slowly drifting away.
Having no national documents means, they cannot open a bank account, acquire proper employment or benefit from monthly old age pension grants, amongst many other hordes of obstacles.
This is the situation Teresa Martinus (49) and many other Angolan descendant “Namibians” are faced with despite promises that they would be granted their residency permits in a registration process that happened back in 2003, and is yet to be realised.
“There is nothing I have not done to try and acquire Namibian national documents. My husband and I have exhausted all channels. We have been instructed to go through by the immigration office to no avail since 2003 until now. We were registered along with thousands of many other Angolans in our situation in 2003, when announcements that all Angolan who had entered Namibia in the 70’s should be registered to acquire citizenship status were made. We provided all the documents that the officials had asked for as requirements but every attempt to submit the documents takes one a few steps backward and you end up running in circles from one office to the next and back again,” revealed Martinus.
Martinus, her husband and seven children live in a two-bedroom shack at Okangwena, where many other Angolan nationals have also settled.
She came to the country in 1979 she said, along with her husband running from the hardship and poverty that has gripped her birthplace at Shangongo, southern Angola. She arrived in Oshakati where she and her husband tried to etch out a living by sowing shoes and selling kapana. It was not easy she says.
Life was marred by constant police arrests because they had no documentation. The couple even acquired a job for ten years at a cattle post but found that life dealt them another blow when their employer refused to pay them as per agreement and threatened to report them to police because they are illegal immigrants. She says sometimes even immigration officers threaten to get them arrested when they persistently visit their office to enquire about their plight.
All of her seven children have Namibian national documents, but despite that she says life continues to be difficult for the family.
“Imagine living most of your life without really belonging somewhere. You have no voice. It is not even easy for our children to proceed further to university or college because they are required to submit their parents’ documentation and we don’t have them,” said Martinus.
Elderly couple Katarina and Zee Domingus are pensioners both in their 70’s but have no access to Namibian pension benefits because they do not have documents.
“We are suffering. We cannot work anymore. We have lived here for so long surviving by doing informal work such as domestic work. We thought if we could get recognised as Namibians with proper documentations we would be able to receive pension. We are many. We have lived in this country for so long that we don’t even remember our own country. Most of the people we knew back in our country are probably dead already, please we are pleading with the Namibian government to help us,” pleaded the couple.
The councillor for Ondangwa urban constituency Econclia Irmari said his office is inundated with enquiries from scores of people born in Angola but who have been residing in Namibia for many years.
“We try to help them by giving them the necessary information of procedures and requirements such as the type of documents they should take to (ministry of) home affairs. We do have some who have been assisted and have received their residency permits,” said Irmari.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration Ambassador Patrick Nandago confirmed that a registration process for Angolan immigrants was initiated catering only for those who had entered the country before the end of 1978.
“The registration process was conducted and only for those who came into Namibia by the end of December 31st 1978. Those are the group that was granted exemption from cabinet to acquire Namibian Citizenship,” Nandago said.
He noted that the ministry is sitting with too many applications and also face a challenge with the renunciation of Angolan citizenship by those who apply to be granted Namibian citizenship as Angola does not allow it.
“Therefore cabinet has decided to grant them citizenship without them renouncing their Angolan citizenship. However in the case of those who came to the country after 1978, from January 1979 to be precise, government is still working on a law that would facilitate their process to be granted citizenship,” said Nandago.