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Repatriated Angolan Children Face Precarious Conditions

Human RightsRepatriated Angolan Children Face Precarious Conditions

Namibian authorities are repatriating Angolans, including dozens of children—many unaccompanied—who were found begging or selling wooden artifacts in Namibia’s cities and towns. Many of the children are from Angola’s southern Cunene, Huila, and Namibe provinces, where the worst drought in four decades has caused severe food shortages and livestock deaths. Over the years, thousands have fled the region and crossed the border to Namibia in search of food and jobs.

Namibia has been criticized for allegedly not doing enough to protect the rights of Angolan children facing hardship within the country. Despite displacement camps set up in Namibia to accommodate people fleeing, children are often seen on the streets of the capital, Windhoek, hungry and living without shelter or any identification papers.

El Niño, the climate phenomenon that disrupts normal weather patterns, is a key driver of the droughts and food insecurity that led many Angolan children to flee to Namibia.

Angolan authorities said they are engaging the Namibian government to find the best solution to “ensure the dignified reintegration of affected children.” But so far efforts on both sides have fallen short.

In recent years, Angola has resettled repatriated children in a government-managed camp in Cunene province, where at least six children reportedly died in 2021 due to the inadequate shelter and food. A volunteer at the camp told Human Rights Watch that many of the repatriated children eventually returned to Namibia because local authorities did not provide enough assistance. Angolan civil society groups have warned about the risks the returned children face in Angola, including poor conditions in camps and lack of public policies to support families in farming following the drought.

It’s not enough to repatriate children from Namibia and resettle them in Angolan camps. Angola’s government should ensure effective and adequate services are available for returned children and their families or guardians, including shelter, food, education, health care, and means of subsistence. This should be done before any further repatriation takes place, so that the children do not return to begging or working in the streets of Windhoek.

The 1969 Organization of African Unity Refugee Convention defines as refugees those fleeing “events seriously disturbing public order.” Namibian authorities should treat as refugees those Angolans fleeing drought and food insecurity. Until Angola has appropriate conditions in place for returnees, Namibia should ensure protection and provide appropriate care for unaccompanied children.

Story from www.hrw.org

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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