BREAKING BARRIERS: Refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo carry their belongings as they approach the UN High Commissioner for Refugees offices in Kiziba refugee camp in Karongi District, Rwanda. Picture: Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)
BREAKING BARRIERS: Refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo carry their belongings as they approach the UN High Commissioner for Refugees offices in Kiziba refugee camp in Karongi District, Rwanda. Picture: Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)

#WorldRefugeeDay: Callls for South Africa to implement SADC Visa

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Jun 20, 2019

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Johannesburg - South Africa’s efforts for refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable people are in decline, non-profit organisations in the human rights sector say.

To mark World Refugee Day, a joint statement by the Lawyers for Human Rights, Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa, Amnesty International South Africa, Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, Wits Law Clinic, Pro-Bono.org, Refugee Pastoral Care, Refugee Social Services, Jesuit Refugee Services and Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, said the country’s efforts were in decline over the past decade.

The organisations want government to urgently address the crisis and related corruption in the asylum system in South Africa, implementation of an accessible SADC visa to ensure safe movement in the region.

They also want government to recognise the plight and protection needs of people fleeing as a consequence of drought, and related consequences of the climate crisis.

“For host communities to welcome refugees to their own communities, and to counter narratives that would seek to exclude and marginalize refugees and other displaced people. And the media to inform and educate listeners, readers and viewers about the reality and plight of refugees in South Africa and the continent,” they said.

The organisations said little was being done about the changing the 'state of crisis' in the asylum system. The organisations argue that it was “impossible” for refugees to access documentation at refugee reception centres because the Department of Home Affairs has failed to put policy that ensures free movement of people in the country is managed while ensuring that the basic human rights and human dignity of every person in our country is respected.

“We continue to witness infringements of these rights through exclusion and through unlawful practices by government officials who are meant to be promoting and enforcing these rights”.

The organisations said black African foreign nationals appeared to be targeted.

“We are seeing an increase in the practice of unlawful arrests and deportation of predominantly Black African foreign nationals. So arrest and deportation at both a human and financial cost is used as the main policy to manage movement and forced migration,” they said.

The organisations said they were concerned that the Home Affairs department has had a high turnover of ministers in the past five years, with six ministers being appointed within a five year period.  

“As we embrace and observe World Refugee Day in 2019 under the global theme of #StepWithRefugees— Take A Step on World Refugee Day, it appears as though the world and its leaders, including SA, are carrying on with business as usual forgetting to honour the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homes under threats of persecution, conflict and violence,” they said.

The Sunday Independent

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