Outrage over non-visa reciprocity between German and Namibia
By Magreth Nunuhe
WINDHOEK – NAMIBIA has no visa reciprocity arrangement with Germany, while countries like the United Kingdom, which have no historical ties with Namibia, exempt Namibian nationals from visa requirements for short visits of up to 60 days to that country.
By contrast, Namibia exempts Germans and residents of other European countries and North America from visa requirements when visiting Namibia for up to six months.
But because of Germany’s exceptional history with Namibia, dating back to Germany’s colonial occupation between 1884 and1915, critics have blasted Germany for not instituting a reciprocal visa requirement so that Namibians do not have to go through the rigorous procedure of applying for visas every time they need to visit Germany.
The two countries have since Namibia’s independence in 1990 shared close cultural links and around 35,000 people from the German-speaking community live in Namibia. The German government has also deepened its bilateral relations and has accepted a special historic responsibility towards Namibia due to the colonial war of 1904-1907 and thereby reaffirmed its commitment to the country’s welfare.
Namibia receives close to a 100,000 visitors from Germany every year and the southern African country remains Germany’s largest foreign investment country in Africa.
Namibians are expected to apply for the Schengen Area visa in order to travel to Germany or any other of the 26 different European nations under the arrangement.
The Schengen Area, named after “the Schengen Agreement”, is a zone of countries in Europe that allow unrestricted movement of people, goods, services, and capital with common judicial system and police co-operation.
Among countries exempted from the Schengen Area visa requirement are Albania, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominica, El Salvador, United Arab Emirates, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Samoa, Santa Lucia, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, East Timor, Trinidad & Tobago, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
The Schengen member states exempt them for visits of up to a maximum of 90 days, for tourism, on missions, business and invitations.
Namibian Ambassador to Germany, Andreas Guibeb, recently expressed his dismay on Facebook about the skewed arrangement between the two countries and questioned why German authorities support visa exemptions for those countries mentioned above but cannot support Namibia to be added to that list “when the UK and Scandinavian authorities see nothing against exempting Namibians from a short-stay visa requirement”.
“I thought that charity begins at home and that if only for the reason that 35,000 Namibians of German origin call Namibia their home would have motivated Germany to support such an exemption request. If that had happened a long time ago Namibians would have been spared the repetitive humiliating occurrences of getting harassed and even deported from Frankfurt Airport, notwithstanding the fact that they have a diplomatic passport or denied transit to another European country despite having a visa declared valid by the German Embassy in Windhoek,” Guibeb argued on his social page.
He said that this must stop in 2017 or alternately, Namibia must give a six-month notice so that as from July 2017, Namibia too will impose a reciprocal visa requirement for Schengen country nationals to apply for a visa at Namibian embassies across Europe before they travel to Namibia.
“As they say what is good for the geese should also be good for the gander,” he said.
Responding to Guibeb’s post, Michaela Hübschle, former Namibian Parliamentarian and government minister, agreed, saying that on numerous occasions Namibians ‘felt so criminal’ at German airports, starting with applying for that visa – the unfriendliness of passport section personnel at the German Embassy, all those requirements including invitation letter, financial status, additional medical coverage, detailed itinerary really sucks.
“But we allow every Tom, John and Harry into (Namibia) without any proper scrutiny. Let’s lobby to change the status quo (as soon as possible),” she said.
Simone De Picciotto also shared Guibeb’s sentiments, saying that she has never understood why any country would make such a big deal concerning a short time visa, which is so discriminating and not appropriate in our times anymore.
Former Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture Kazenambo Kazenambo was in 2010 detained for hours at Germany’s airport in Munich over allegations he travelled with a fake passport.
In October 2016, Inspector General of the Namibian police Lieutenant-General Sebastian Ndeitunga, who was Interpol’s vice-president for Africa, was arrested by German customs and immigration officials at Frankfurt airport on suspicion.
Contacted for comment, the German Embassy in Namibia said that Germany does not object to a visa exemption for Namibians who wish to enter the Schengen Area for touristic or personal purposes.
“However, since the Schengen Area consists of 26 full member states, it is not up to Germany to decide further steps towards visa liberalization. According to Article 77 2 (a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the EU is the competent authority for the ‘the common policy on visas and other short-stay residence permits’. Therefore, the EU Commission needs to be addressed directly. Germany is not aware of any recent steps taken by the Namibian government in this direction,” said the German Embassy in a statement.
“In addition, the German Embassy draws your attention to the fact that all German nationals do require a visa in order to enter Namibia. German nationals who intend to come to Namibia for other than tourist purposes must apply for and be granted a Namibian visa and pay the respective fee before entering the Republic of Namibia,” read the statement further. Nationals from the countries listed below with whom Namibia has Visa Exemption Agreements are not required to obtain visa and will be allowed to enter into Namibia and get Visitor´s Entry Permit (VEP) endorsement stamps at the Port of entry for the following reasons:
• Visiting friends or relatives
• Attending workshops
(not as facilitator)
• Attending meetings
• Exploring of business
• Medical treatment
• Any other purpose
other than employment
of any kind.
The German Embassy said that it, however, appreciated the privilege granted to German citizens, among other European nationals, to enter Namibia as tourists on the basis of a visa upon arrival without fees. This preferential visa procedure is one important reason why approximately 1,000 Germans chose Namibia as their tourist destination in 2016, said the embassy.
However, The Southern Times established from the latest information obtained from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, and the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation that Germany is on the list of those foreign nationals exempted from visa requirements when travelling to Namibia.
SCHENGEN AREA COUNTRIES
• Austria • Belgium
• Czech Republic • Denmark
• Estonia • Finland
• France • Germany
• Greece • Hungary
• Iceland • Italy
• Latvia • Lithuania
• Luxembourg • Malta
• The Netherlands • Norway
• Poland • Portugal
• Slovakia • Slovenia
• Spain • Sweden
• Switzerland • Liechtenstein
COUNTRIES THAT HAVE EXEMPTED VISITING NAMIBIAN NATIONALS FROM VISA REQUIREMENTS
3. Brazil tourist visa *(when travelling on official trips/ business visa required)
4. Congo Brazzaville (only diplomatic, official and service passports)
6. Ethiopia (only official business visitors – attending workshops, seminars and official functions of the AU and the UNECA and other UN organs)
7. France (only diplomatic passport holders are exempted up to three months)
8. Ghana (only diplomatic, official and service passports)
9. Germany (only diplomatic passport holders are exempted)
10. Hong Kong (SAR)
11. India (diplomatic and official passports up to three months)
14. Macau (SAR)
18. Philippines (diplomatic and
official up to 21 days)
19. Rwanda (entry visas are issued at any entry point)
22. South Africa
24. Switzerland (only official and diplomatic passports holders are exempted)
26. The Bahamas
27. Trinidad and Tobago
28. United Kingdom
29. Venezuela (diplomatic, official
and service passports)
33. Turkey (diplomatic and official
FOREIGN NATIONALS EXEMPTED FROM VISA REQUIREMENTS WHEN VISITING NAMIBIA:
11. Congo Brazzaville (only diplomatic, official and service passports)
17. Ghana (only diplomatic, official
and service passports)
18. Hong Kong
20. India (only diplomatic, official
passports up to three months)
30. Macau (SAR)
36. The Netherlands
37. New Zealand
40. Russian Federation
43. South Africa
52. United Kingdom
53. United States of America
55. Venezuela (only diplomatic, official and service passports)