British High Commissioner, Charles Moore, says the Namibian government has been aware of the issues facing the United Kingdom with regards to Namibians traveling to the country.
The UK government announced in mid-July that Namibians will require a visa to enter that country. This new requirement is already in force.
“To go to the UK, Namibians have always required a visa on occasions like to study or for work. But, there has been a special visa-free provision if they only wanted to visit the UK for business or tourism,” Moore explained.
He said since 2016, there has been a surge of applications seeking asylum in the UK, with 2022 seeing a record high number of 651 applications. In the first three months of this year the number was already at 382 applications, submitted by Namibians arriving in the UK.
“In 2016 it was just 27 applications that were submitted by Namibians arriving in the UK. The UK government announced on 19 July 2023 that, with immediate effect, all Namibian nationals will need a visa before traveling to the UK, including to visit,” a statement on the UK government website reads.
Moore clarified the trend of Namibians claiming asylum has been observed for more than 10 years, adding that there is an internal UK process which evaluates the status of various nations who enjoy visa-free entry to their country.
“Namibia became part of the group of countries which has lost their visa-free entry status to the UK because of this [trend],” the High Commissioner added.
The submissions have been viewed by the UK government as not containing any legitimacy due to the nature of the application.
“Most of these submissions do not have any substance because the reason for asylum is for people fleeing famine, conflict or persecution. These would also extend to actions that refugees would face in the form of arbitrary imprisonment,” Moore clarified.
“But this is not the case for Namibia. This country is a safe and democratic country.”
The High Commissioner continued added that most of the Namibian asylum applications are there for economic migration.
An economic migrant is someone who seeks to relocate to another territory or region of the world, including cross border, for an improvement of living standards.
The reason this happens is also because the pushing factors in the home country or region of the migrant are not favourable like lack of job opportunities.
The asylum application process in the UK takes between a year and 18 months to finalise wherein the UK government has the responsibility to ensure the applicant is safe.
“This includes accommodation, that they have access to food, access to housing, access to employment to sustain themselves. This is a huge burden on the British taxpayer,” Moore stressed.
On the question of the recent debates in the UK parliament regarding the Migrants Bill, Moore explained this to be a separate but related issue.
“This deals with the small boats issue of trying to cross the channel between France and England illegally.”
The distinction is made between the legal airport access and visa-free privilege that Namibians have enjoyed, versus the dangerous channel attempts being made by immigrants from other parts of the world, which concerns the British government