Namibia’s Commissioner for Refugees Nkrumah Mushelenga has said that gay and lesbian Ugandans will never be granted refugee status in his country.
‘Our domestic refugee law does not have a provision granting refugee status for being gay. And we will never do that,’ Mushelenga said in comments reported by the Namibian Sun newspaper.
‘We will not accept them. They are not part of the criteria we use.’
Mushelenga made the comments after news reports surfaced about a gay Ugandan refugee who has been held in jail for over a year in Narraville Police Station in Walvis Bay and is trying to seek asylum.
Mushelenga’s comments have angered LGBTI rights and human rights groups in the country who say he is ignorant of Namibia’s laws.
NamRights and Namibia’s gay community, represented by former Mr. Gay Namibia winner Wendelinus Hamutenya, held a press conference yesterday in which they decried his statements.
‘Mushelenga exhibits gross ignorance of the Namibian Constitution and this country’s jurisprudence,’ Hamutenya said in a statement forwarded to GSN.
‘Article 97, read together with Article 10, of the Namibian Constitution, which Mushelenga seeks to misinterpret, strictly prohibits denial of asylum in Namibia on account of “membership of a particular social group.” Little does Mushelenga seems to know that “a social group” includes a gay group.
NamRights spokesperson Phil ya Nangoloh noted several court rulings that had found that gay refugees could seek asylum in Namibia and warned that Namibia would be failing its international human rights obligations by failing to allow them to.
‘Refoulement of asylum seekers from Namibia is absolutely forbidden in terms of Article 3 of the 1984 UN Convention against Torture to which Namibia is party,’ Ya Nangoloh said.
‘Hence, any attempt to deport asylum seekers from Namibia merely on the account of their sexual orientation will be set aside by any competent court in Namibia.’
Gay sex is technically illegal in Namibia but the law has rarely been enforced.