A British tourist recently entered the country through the Hosea Kutako International Airport without immigration processing his passport.
This raises security questions at the airport.
Clifford Abbott (62), from Crowley in the United Kingdom, was on Monday fined N$2000 for illegally entering the country on December 22, 2007.
Abbott, and his Namibian wife, Nearly, eventually left for the United Kingdom on Tuesday night after a three-day delay due to the conviction.
However, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Home Affairs, Kauku Hengari, refutes this saying that Abbott passed through immigration control while the officers were attending to other people. Kauku said Abbott was fully aware that his passport had not been processed but his wife ignored this when he informed her as they were in a rush to reach their destination.
According to Abbott when he landed on December 22, there were no immigration officials to process his passport and those of many other passengers on the same Air Namibia flight from Gatwick Airport. He said he pleaded guilty as contesting the charge would have meant enlisting the costly services of a lawyer and the process would also have taken time – about three months. He said he was under pressure to report for work back in the United Kingdom on Monday at 08h30 as well as going back to his minor children as they had only hired a babysitter until Sunday, when they were expected back in the UK. Abbott and his wife feared the worst regarding the welfare of their children as the British welfare authorities might have taken the children into their custody after realising that they were left alone.
Their home telephone was ringing unanswered.
Abbott denied any willful intent to enter the country illegally, pointing out that he did not have any reason to do so as he did not need to pay for an entry visa, and has a valid British passport and a return air ticket to the UK.
Abbott was disappointed for being denied permission to stay with his wife and in-laws, Mr and Mrs Uanee and Ripanga Muundjua while awaiting court appearance.
Instead, he spent two nights in police cells at the Hosea Kutako International Airport and at the Windhoek Central Police Station, respectively, before appearing in court on Monday.
Pleading guilty did not soften the attitude of the immigration officer, Martha Ndameshine, whom Abbott claimed threatened him with continued detention and was reluctant to release him before his departure on Tuesday.
He was, however, eventually released into the care of his wife and in-laws but his passport was retained until just before their departure.
The Air Namibia flight from Gatwick Airport on December 22 landed around 12h00, instead of 09h30. On alighting, Abbott alleges he had his passport ready for immigration control. However, he claimed he was not sure where passport control was and seeing no immigration officials to direct him and fellow passengers, he thus joined the stream of other passengers and proceeded through to baggage collection without any official demanding or checking his passport. Thereafter, he went through customs and with nothing to declare, exited.
His wife, who was already in Namibia, and his in-laws collected him about two hours late because of the flight delay. They whisked him straight to the Eiseb communal area in the Otjombinde Constituency in the Omaheke Region. The ‘horrible journey’ out of the way and united with his wife that is when it dawned on Abbott as strange that his passport was not stamped on his entry.
This being normal at some European airports, it did not bother him much and he did not even think it might be a big issue when leaving Namibia.
Admitting to not being a regular traveller, he said this was his second visit to Namibia. The first time he was accompanied by his wife who assisted him through immigration control.
However, exiting proved bumpy with Abbott landing in police cells and eventually in court.
The British Deputy High Commissionner in Windhoek, Gery Leslie, said only the Namibian immigration authority could explain how Abbott could have entered the country without his passport being checked. He said he does not think Abbott might have entered the country illegally since he is married to a Namibian. He said the law took its course and they considered the matter closed.