Institutions call for inclusion of migrants in Covid-19 testing, treatment
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Pretoria - The Centre for Human Rights has warned that efforts to fight the spread of the coronavirus will be in vain if undocumented migrants and other non-nationals are excluded from accessing services.
In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, the centre and the universities of Pretoria and Witwatersrand, and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies have called on the government to address the plight for migrants in the interest of all South Africans.
The institutions said they were concerned about migrants living in the country, and that any exclusion of any segment of society from accessing testing, treatment and other palliate measures will ultimately undermine national efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
Director of the Centre for Human Rights Frans Viljoen said: “Our overall efforts will fail if we allow prejudice and stigmatisation on the basis of nationality to cause undocumented migrants and other non-nationals to be victimised when they attempt to use these services, or if they are excluded from these services.
“The government should be guided by section 27(3) of the South African Constitution, which provides that, “no one may be refused emergency medical treatment.”
Viljoen said it’s not in the best interest of the country if people from a segment of society are prosecuted when they present themselves for screening, testing and treatment, or if they are excluded from medical and other essential services.
The institutions highlighted that while the government’s efforts to provide food aid to vulnerable persons is commendable, it appears that applicants for food aid are being asked for their ID number, and that citizens are prioritised in this process.
They made a plea that the government should be guided by solidarity; a call that has been echoed by government officials since the beginning of the crisis and national lockdown. This is not a time to exclude certain populations within society or a time to reinforce negative attitudes against non-nationals.
Director of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies Tshepo Madlingozi said the government, through the Department of Home Affairs, should explicitly give directions for the protection of asylum seekers so that they do not fear being arrested if their papers were not processed before lockdown.
** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za