• Humanism Has No Borders - Commemorating World Refugee Day

    2012 marked the 11th anniversary of World Refugee Day, commemorated every year on 20 June. Thousands of people take time to recognise and compliment the input of people forcibly uprooted from their homes and displaced throughout the world. The annual tribute is noted by an array of events in many countries, incorporating humanitarian workers, civilians, government officials and refugees and asylum seekers. In most corners it is an opportunity to credit the boldness, resilience and dedication of children, women and men who are compelled to escape their native country under threat of torture, brutality and warfare. It is also an opportunity to recognise the contributions that refugees make to the countries that host them. In South Africa, World Refugee Day took a special significance to honour asylum seekers, refugees and non-nationals.

    Yet, there are still reports about xenophobia in the country documented by News24 and the Sowetan. Four years ago, the nation came together with a mass pledge of solidarity against xenophobia to say, ‘never and never and never again’.

    In May 2008, poverty stricken mobs of local black South Africans invaded informal settlements equipped with machetes, clubs and torches and attacked black immigrants from foreign countries. Physical and commercial insecurity propelled these bloodbath campaigns. This resulted in several hundred maimed, 62 non-nationals killed and mass displacement. The aftermath of xenophobia saw South Africans and non-nationals protest non-violently through marching, collecting clothing, food and blankets for the victimised, conducting vigils and speaking out against violence.

    News24 recently reported that 104 people are in court for xenophobic attacks in Limpopo for the charges of public violence, looting shops and malicious damage to property. The suffering of non-South African nationals eking out a living in South Africa has amounted to xenophobic levels requiring collective global justice intervention. It is argued that independent Africa has done more harm to black people than colonialism itself. Organisations corroborate their fear, saying this is not the first hints of possible violence and there is no respect of human dignity, when it comes to non-South Africans.

    Celebrated since 2001, World Refugee Day emphasizes unity. There is need to keep strengthening this unity as the only channel of fuelling sustainable peace and development, and upholding this unity against all forms of genocide or xenophobic violence. It is appropriate that much of this year’s celebrations are taking on the theme: ‘One refugee without hope is too many’.

    There are refugees and asylum seekers all over the world, on every continent and in every country. The system of migration may change, but the movement of people will always remain that of individuals or families moving to a place that offers them better opportunities. People from many countries migrate to South Africa because of the opportunities it affords them, either economic, or social in that South Africa is not at war and has a liberal constitution, but sadly, due to the intense competition for jobs and housing, many Africans continue to be persecuted once arriving in the country. Unfortunately, with such high unemployment, many South Africans perceive the arrival of foreigners as a threat to their already endangered access to resources. It is unfortunate that so many black Africans are treated as a threat whereas immigrants from other countries are often welcomed as sources of skills, talent and expertise. It is important for any person who is able to contribute positively to South Africa to be recognised as such, wherever they come from, and above else for the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers to be upheld. Rather than automatically treating non-South Africans as competition for resources etc, South Africans should also try to consider what circumstances have forced people to leave their home and think about the type of welcome they would want to experience if the same were to happen to them.

    Four years ago, many expressed fury at the lack of action despite signs and warnings, while for others the xenophobic violence came as an absolute surprise. But, nobody can ever again say they did not see it coming. Everybody knows that xenophobia is a problem, and for all the promises made four years ago, how much has changed?

    As we celebrated the World Refugee Day, we also remembered that South Africans fled during apartheid and accepted refugee status elsewhere in the world. It is our duty to accommodate and show compassion to refugees who are fleeing persecution in their home countries. We all must raise our voices loudly say "never, never and never again" against xenophobic violence.

    - Primrose Ncube, primrosencube4@gmail.com


  • Create Jobs to Stop Xenophobia - Bond

    The Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal has urged government to create more jobs, build more houses and change its foreign policy to end xenophobia.

    The Centre’s Patrick Bond points out that, “More and more refugees from Zimbabwe, Somalia and other parts of Africa are pouring into South Africa and are creating havoc in the country.”

    “We simply cannot say, because the sparks that create these infernos of anger are unpredictable. We do know, however, that the underlying causes have not changed since 2008, namely unemployment, housing shortages,” argues Bond.

    To read the article titled, “Create jobs to stop xenophobia: Prof,” click here.

  • Call for Special Courts in Xenophobia Cases

    The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has recommended to the portfolio committee on justice and constitutional development that government set up special courts to deal with xenophobia-related cases.

    The SAHRC, which presented its findings on research into the aftermath of the 2008 xenophobic attacks, found that victims of xenophobia had not received proper justice because there were so few convictions related to the attacks.

    Titled ‘Report on the Rule of Law, Justice and Impunity: Institutional Responses to the 2008 Violence Against Non-nationals’, the report says cases related to the 2008 attacks were hindered by delays brought on by case flow management, a shortage of investigators, reduced forensic and court capacity, as well as a lack of available interpreters.

    To read the article titled, “Call for special courts in xenophobia cases,” click here.
    All Africa
  • CoRMSA Calls on Govt to Step Xenophobia Fight

    The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) has urged the government to strengthen its capacity to detect threats of xenophobic violence and to provide a centralised national contact telephone number for reporting threats or outbreaks of such attacks.

    CoRMSA advocacy officer, Duncan Breen, points out that all available intelligence sources need to be used to deal with the ‘credible’ threat against foreign nationals.

    The organisation is also calling for the improvement of accountability for state employees, such as police officers, who refused to help foreigners, contributing to the public perception that non-South Africans were not protected by the state and could be attacked with impunity.

    To read the article titled, “Refugee group calls on state to step up xenophobia fight,” click here.
    Business Day
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  • South Africa Warned on Xenophobia

    A group of eminent global leaders called the ‘Elders’ says xenophobia may erupt in South Africa after the FIFA World Cup as jobs start becoming scarcer.

    Former Ireland president, Mary Robinson, points out that, "I think everyone recognises that with having the World Cup in South Africa there are concerns."

    Robinson says that, "We are more worried after the World Cup, the possibilities of xenophobia... construction jobs fall away and people, especially from Zimbabwe, will be looking for jobs.”

    To read the article titled, “Xenophobia after World Cup a concern,” click here.
    Times Live
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  • Celebrating Africa Day: Remembering Our Commitment to ‘Never Again’

    On 25 May, the continent, along with Africans all over the world, celebrated Africa Day. In most corners, it is an opportunity to celebrate the diversity and richness of African culture. In South Africa, Africa Day is taking on special significance as the nation prepares to ‘welcome the world’ to the FIFA World Cup.

    Yet, reports in the United Kingdom's The Guardian and another in South Africa's Mail & Guardian about the possibility of post-event xenophobia in the country should remind us that two years ago the nation came together with a rallying commitment to say ‘never again’.

    On Africa Day two years ago, South Africa was still struggling to cope with the aftermath of xenophobic clashes that left 62 people dead, including 21 South Africans, and resulted in mass displacement of men, women, and children. The country marched, held vigils, collected food and blankets for the displaced, spoke out against the violence, and lamented about how this could possibly happen in a country so proudly deemed the rainbow nation.

    The Guardian report says that dozens of Zimbabwean women interviewed in Hillbrow in downtown Johannesburg say they face daily intimidation and threats by their landlords and groups of men gathering outside their homes at night. Organisations such as the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants and the Forced Migration Studies Programme at Wits University corroborate their fears, saying this is not the first hints of possible violence.

    Meanwhile, other organisations all over Southern Africa have stepped up efforts against the potential of human trafficking, especially trafficking into the sex industry to feed the perceived increased demand for sex services that comes with mega-events such as the World Cup. Women and girls from poorer countries are especially vulnerable, since promises of opportunities and a chance to earn a living are hard to pass up.

    Southern Africa has long been a region of porous borders, with people seeking better lives on the other side - migrating from South Africa to countries like Mozambique and Zimbabwe during the apartheid years, and more recently into countries like South Africa and Botswana where stronger economies mean more jobs.

    Traditionally this migrant movement has been mostly male, but times have changed. Economically, women across the continent are at a disadvantage. Social stereotypes and cultural practices reduce opportunities for education, work, and entrepreneurship for women. Yet at the same time, there are increasing numbers of female-headed households, especially resulting from HIV/AIDS, and more women responsible for the family's daily bread.

    Families often now expect their daughters, almost as much as their sons, to help provide for the family. And with limited opportunities in many Southern African countries, migration becomes the not so-easy solution. And it seems that migration is becoming even riskier business than ever before.

    Celebrated since 1963, Africa Day is a commemoration of African unity. In celebrating the continent's diversity and achievements, there is also a need to keep stressing that unity is the only way to continue developing and progress further, and this includes unity against all forms of xenophobic or gender violence. Perhaps it is fitting that much of this year's celebrations are taking on a football theme - after all, the only way to win is if all members of the team pull together.

    Zimbabwe has even themed this Africa Day ‘Promoting Peace Through Sports’. In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma will address to the nation, followed by a music concert featuring a range of artists from the famed "6-Pack" (the African nations that have qualified for the World Cup tournament) at Ekurhuleni's Dries Niemandt Park on 29 May. The celebrations even go as far away as Taiwan, where African students are organising a soccer tournament, and Ireland, where groups of Africans are mounting sporting and cultural activities.

    There are Africans all over the world, on every continent and in every country. Patterns of migration may change, but the movement of people never will. Unfortunately, except when there is a shocking event - xenophobic riots or a particularly horrific media report of human trafficking - making migration and migrants safe just does not seem to be a priority for most governments.

    Two years ago, many expressed outrage at lack of action despite signs and warnings, while for others the violence came as a complete surprise. But, nobody can ever again say they did not see it coming. Everyone knows that xenophobia is a problem, and for all the promises made two years ago, how much has changed?

    So, as we celebrate this Africa Day and enjoy the afrobeat from Nigeria and soukos from Congo, dance Mozambican passada, and sample Ghanaian fufu or Moroccan couscous, remember that unity is more than celebrating.
    Few migrate by choice, and there is a need to make migration safer, taking into account the particular vulnerabilities of women and girls. Whether it is saying no to human trafficking or raising our voices loudly to say "never again" against xenophobic violence, 67 years after the idea of African unity was first introduced, it's more than high time.

    - Deborah Walter is the editor of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service and Director of CMFD Productions. This article is part of the GL Service that provides fresh views on everyday news. It is republished here with the permission of Gender Links.
    Deborah Walter
  • Xenophobic Violence on the Horizon

    The fears come after Atteridgeville residents attacked two Somali spaza shops on Monday night.

    The attacks occurred after security workers, contracted by the Tshwane Metro Council, tore down 550 shacks at Itireleng settlement, next to Laudium, on Monday.

    The shacks were demolished after the landowners, Pretoria Portland Cement, obtained a court order in December to have the land invaders evicted.

    The Gauteng Civic Association (GACA), which represents neighbouring Atteridgeville residents, yesterday said Itireleng residents were angry with mayor Gwen Ramokgopa, who they believed had broken her promises to give them land.

    To read the article titled, “Fears of xenophobic violence,” click here.
    Independent Online
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  • PASSOP Criticised Govt Over Refugees

    The Western Cape government is more concerned about the media than the well-being of the De Doorns xenophobia victims. This is according to People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP).

    In a press statement, PASSOP says that Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, and her MECs, have not yet apologised to the refugees for the pain they have suffered.

    The organisation further says, "Provincial government... is concerned only for some miraculous reintegration in order to avoid further embarrassment."

    To read the article titled, “Refugee group slams Western Cape leaders,” click here.

    <br /> The Times
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  • Call for Aid Appeal for Refugees

    The South African Red Cross Society has launched a R2 million appeal for emergency support for xenophobia refugees at De Doorns in the Western Cape.

    The organisation is also calling on all South Africans to stand together for humanity.

    The appeal comes as negotiators meet representatives of the local community in a bid to resolve tensions.

    Thousands of foreign nationals, mostly Zimbabweans, evacuated shack settlements in the area following confrontations with local residents who claim the foreign nationals are robbing them of seasonal jobs on farms in the area.

    To read the article titled, “Aid appeal for De Doorns refugees,” click here.
    <br /> Mail and Guardian
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  • South Africa’s Induction for Asylum Seekers

    Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, has announced that his department is finalising an integration strategy encompassing induction training for asylum seekers and refugees.

    Gigaba, who maintains that South Africa has no provision for the ‘basic induction’ of foreigners, says the proposed training will provide answers to such questions as “what is SA, what is its constitution, human rights, languages, and what type of people do we have?”

    However, Loren Landau of the University of the Witwatersrand’s Forced Migration Studies Programme, says until the country has a legal framework that provide some form of documentation for foreigners already in the country and those likely to come, the discussion of integration remain premature.

    “Once we’ve done that, I think it would make sense for government to start a discussion about migrants’ rights and responsibilities as part of a broader, national debate over what it means to live in a diverse and dynamic country,” says Landau.

    To read the article titled, “Home affairs plans to launch induction for asylum seekers,” click here.
    <br /> Business Day
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