Civil Unrest: SA expats in New Zealand hold vigils amid surge in immigration requests
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Hundreds of expats in New Zealand gathered over the weekend to show solidarity with all South Africans who have been affected by the violence and looting in South Africa.
In the country’s capital, Wellington, a vigil was held on Monday. Dozens of vigils and gatherings organised by South African expats have taken place across the globe over the weekend.
“We have all watched in horror how our home country has been broken and destroyed over the past week. We may be living here now, but we know the fear, terror, and desperation that our friends and family are experiencing. For many of us, it was this uncertainty and fight for survival that led to us leaving our home country in the first place,” said Melody Brandon
Brandon, who organised the vigil and is a former journalist from South Africa, who now lives in New Zealand. She was born in Durban and grew up in KwaZulu- Natal.
Her extended family is still in Durban and her brothers are in Gauteng and Limpopo.
“We have not forgotten the people we left behind, we have not forgotten our places of birth and for better or worse, the country that moulded us into who we are today.”
South Africa is the 5th largest source of New Zealand immigrants behind the United Kingdom, China, India, and Australia.
Dozens of expats stood sobbing, holding up photos of the families they have left behind.
“We have watched in total helplessness, carrying the guilt of leaving those we love behind.
An impossible choice that we have all had to make and carrying the grief that comes with that,” said Brandon.
The aim of the vigil was to raise awareness of what is happening in South Africa and to ask the New Zealand government to reconsider their decision to deny family reunification visas for South Africans who are currently living and working in New Zealand, while their families are separated from them in South Africa.
This comes as thousands of South Africans have made enquiries about emigration since the violence began. Immigration agents in South Africa have recorded record enquiries across the racial lines.
Brandon said that while South Africans in New Zealand were worried about the news that was coming out coming out via social media, it had been humbling to see the incredible stories of hope.
“What the past few days has shown, is that South Africans are resilient and resourceful. It has been amazing to see how ordinary South Africans have banded together to fight back, to protect their homes and businesses.”
The message for family, friends, and fellow South Africans back home during the vigil was to let them know that they are not forgotten.
“You are on our minds in the middle of the night, the first thing we think about when we open our eyes in the morning. We worry about what you are going to eat, when we are buying our groceries, we wonder how long it will take for you to have access to fuel when we fill up our cars,” she said.
“We have not forgotten you; we have not moved on with our lives- forgetting where we come from. We will always live our lives in two realities, where we lay our heads now and where our hearts are. The distance and passage of time does a lot, but it does not change the fact that you are ours, we are yours and we are all with you right now.”