Immigration officials at Hosea Kutako International Airport yesterday detained about 160 members of a foreign-based church, because they did not have the required travel documents to enter the country.

The group, among them 12 children, are from the Johane Masowe Echishanu Apostles Church, which is based in Zimbabwe.

They are believed to have come to Namibia to attend a religious conference in the capital. They were denied entry to the country.

Home Affairs and Immigration Permanent Secretary Patrick Nandago yesterday, when asked why the group was detained, responded: “Non-compliance with the law.”

Nandago said the group consists mainly of Zimbabwean nationals and others from Botswana and South Africa. “You can only travel without a visa if you are a tourist and in this case they did not have the applicable permit. Since it is not the case, they were supposed to apply for the relevant permits. The next step is for them to go back to their countries,” he said.

Nandago did not provide a due date by which the group should leave the country.
“They are actually supposed to leave with the next available flight.” The group was detained in the old terminal building at the airport.

Nampol’s head of public relations, Chief Inspector Kauna Shikwambi, said the group would have to be deported to their countries of origin.

Shikwambi said they had applied for visas sometime back, but the request was declined.
“Despite not getting visas, they still had the audacity to come here,” she said.

According to Shikwambi, the group applied to stay in Namibia from September 27 to October 14 2015.
They jetted into the country aboard Air Namibia.

Airlines are supposed to check whether travellers have the required travel documents before allowing them to board a flight.

Air Namibia however downplayed any wrongdoing.

“We are aware of the passengers, however it is an immigration issue,” said the airline’s spokesman Paulus Nakawa.

The Namibian Police yesterday refused the media permission to speak to the group.