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Join Lawyers for Human Rights for two evenings of impact cinema in Pretoria

Lawyers for Human Rights, in partnership with Tri Continental Film Festival (TCFF), is pleased to invite you to two evenings of impact cinema at the Kutlwanong Democracy Centre in Pretoria.

On Thursday, 15 October, we will host a special screening of the award-winning documentary film “Democrats“. Filmed over three years, this film follows the two men (from the opposing Zanu-PF and MDC political parties) responsible for drafting Zimbabwe’s new constitution and their unlikely alliance.



Then on Friday, 16 October, we will screen “The Shore Break”, a South African film detailing a local community’s struggle and determination against titanium mining in the Amadiba area on the Wild Coast.


The Shore Break

The Shore Break


When: 15 and 16 October 2015
Where: Kutlwanong Democracy Centre, 357 Visagie Street, Pretoria
Time: 6:30pm for 7:00pm (drinks and snacks will be provided)

Please RSVP to Melissa du Preez at or 071 879 0327 at your earliest convenience.

The annual Tri Continental Film Festival is a not for profit festival that brings impact cinema to South Africa, with the aim of using cinema as a tool to support human rights activism. TCFF and LHR have been partners on this festival for 13 years.

CoRMSA welcomes the announcement of Lesotho Special Dispensation.

The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) welcomes the announcement made by the Minister of Home Affairs (DHA), Hon Malusi Gigaba to improve movement between the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa. This was after bilateral negotiations between the Ministers of Home Affairs of the two countries and their senior officials in Lesotho, during the official visit of Minister Gigaba, of 21-22 September.

CoRMSA welcomes the announcement of the Lesotho Special Dispensation (LSP) to regularize the status of undocumented Basotho in South Africa. The Minister will announce the commencement date and implementation modalities after consultations and preparations undertaken with Lesotho’s Ministry of Home Affairs. This announcement follows the introduction of the Zimbabwe Dispensation Permit and its follow up, the Zimbabwe Special Permit, to regulate and legalise the stay of Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa.

CoRMSA remains hopeful that this will alleviate the stress and address many cases on undocumented Basotho in the country who do not fall within provisions in Immigration Act. Their status of being undocumented in the country has led to many human rights violation including access to education for children born to undocumented Basotho parents. This has led to many children not able to access education or to receive their matriculation certificates after completing their studies, thus denying them access to higher education. The LSP will also alleviate and address labour exploitation experienced by Basotho labourers such as being underpaid, unable to access both social insurance and private pension and other related employment benefits. Implementation of the LSP will help to effectively eradicate the trafficking of persons and empower Basotho in the country to access certain basic services such as justice, social services and health care.

CoRMSA recommends to the department of home affairs when announcing how this process will work to make the process be retrospective to consider those also consider those who are in the country before its inception. We further applaud the Department of Home Affairs’ for committing to engage stakeholders moving forward regarding the implementation of the LSP. This will be a good opportunity to engage in awareness raising to the communities so that those who qualify are able to apply on time for the permits.

Furthermore, CoRMSA would like to also urge the Department of Home Affairs to develop a monitoring and evaluation control system that will ensure that Lesotho Special Dispensation process is carried out to the intended beneficiaries without any alteration or discrepancies like those witnessed during the phase of Zimbabwean Dispensation Permit. This will help the Department of Home Affairs to effectively manage the implementation process effectively.

Lastly, CoRMSA, members and partners will wait to hear about the process procedures to be announced and will remain committed to assisting the Department of Home Affairs and the South African government in the realisation of the LSP.

For further information please contact Mr. Thifulufheli Sinthumule- National Programme CoordinatorCoRMSA – 078 287 1485/011 403 7560 or

National Heritage Month

In  South African, the month of September is celebrated  as National Heritage Month. During this month, South Africans across the spectrum are encouraged to celebrate their culture and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to its entire  inhabitants, regardless of their background. South Africans celebrate Heritage Day by acknowledging the cultural heritage and various cultures that make up and upholds the strength of South African population sustained by its traditional differences.

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In promoting the above, on the 23 September 2015, Consortium for refugees and migrants in South Africa in partnership with City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality (Migration Unit) and the Forced Migration Working Group Members hosted a half day celebration event to showcase “Cultural Diversity”  through   performing and visual arts, fashion exhibits, culinary events, traditional music, etc.  South Africa, like many other countries, is a host to asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants. Therefore, this event aims to bring together all the members of the South Africa society, including foreign nationals to celebrate their cultural heritage.   The main objective of the event was to “celebrate the Day in order to bring together different communities including asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and South Africans to showcase their cultural heritage in the endeavor to promote social cohesion”.


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The event took place in Diepkloof Township, Zone 4 . Soweto. It was for the first time this kind of event was hosted in Soweto. The event was well  attended by over 300 participants from diverse communities both non-nationals and nationals including young and old. Amongst the participants they were  International organisations, Government Departments and Civil Society Organisations. Participants were dressed up on their cultural attires to celebrate cultural diversity and promote social cohesion in communities. On the day, they were various artists and performers who entertained the participants.

Statement on the Angolan cessation clause: former refugees from Angola face deportation as temporary permits expire


16 September 2015

The People’s Coalition Against Xenophobia calls for Angolans who have been legally living in South Africa with refugee status for many years to be allowed to regularise their stay in the country.

In April 2013 the South African government agreed to implement a cessation of refugee status for Angolans. Following a recommendation from the UNHCR, the South African government agreed that the situation in Angola was now stable and that Angolans are therefore no longer in need of protection. Whilst we should be applauding the fact Angola is at peace following the decades long civil war, we are deeply concerned by the manner in which the government approached this matter.

It is an international norm in such cases that the UNHCR and governments look at ways to find durable solutions for people who had been considered refugees. This means working with the country of origin to enable them to help those who wish to return. This also means looking at ways to enable former refugees to integrate into the countries in which they have been living.

In the case of the 2,000 Angolans in South Africa, few opted to move voluntarily as many have been here for twenty years or more, children have been born and grown up here and know no other country, language or culture. Research undertaken in January 2015 by the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town (SCCT) found that the Angolan refugees surveyed were well integrated “socially, linguistically and in terms of education – within South African society. A large majority of respondents’ children were born in South Africa (73%) and 92% were enrolled in South African schools… At 77%, a majority of respondents used a South African language at home with their family.”

Home Affairs issued two-year temporary residence permits, saying in a statement on 4 September 2015, that this was to assist “those affected to remain in the country as Angolan migrants and not as refugees.” These permits are now expiring, leaving people at risk of deportation. The SCCT survey found that “of self-employed respondents, 69% indicated that they employ others in their businesses and 78% of these employed at least one South African citizen… at 70%, the majority of respondents considered payment of taxes, operation of business, job creation or employable skills as their main contribution to South African society.“ However, there is no appropriate provision in the South African Immigration Act for most of these people, as regulations require specific high-level skills or large amounts of capital (currently over 5 million rand).

Those affected should not become undocumented over night because our flawed immigration legislation does not allow for a realistic way to obtain legal status. The Minister of Home Affairs has himself said: “immigrants make a huge contribution to our society and development, and can contribute even more under an improved policy framework”.

By contrast, Zambia is offering 10,000 Angolan refugees an integration process, recognising that they have been living and contributing to the Zambian economy for many years. It is inhumane for South Africa not to consider a similar route for a much smaller number of people. Furthermore, this would demonstrate in action the stated commitment of our government to regional integration and the SADC Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons, to which South Africa is a signatory.

We call on the South African government to urgently consider a process of integration, so that these former refugees can continue to contribute to the life and economy of South Africa, instead of spending time and government resources deporting people who only know South Africa as home.

For more information contact:

Roshan Dadoo

Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA)

011 403 7560/1

082 816 2799

South Africa: Refugees Speak Truth to Power

Johannesburg, 20 August 2015

Samson Ogunyemi, Advocacy Officer at the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) South Africa Office, organised an opportunity for refugees to have their voices heard by those in power.  With representatives from the UNHCR, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and more importantly, a senior official from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), ordinary asylum seekers and refugees had an opportunity to have their concerns raised in an open forum, where their questions had to be answered by a panel of experts from across the spectrum.

An elderly refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo speaks passionately about her legitimate concerns, pertaining to corruption at Home Affairs. (Gushwell F. Brooks/Jesuit Refugee Sevice)

A refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo speaks passionately about her legitimate concerns, pertaining to corruption at Home Affairs. (Gushwell F. Brooks/Jesuit Refugee Sevice)

A panel of speakers comprised of the UNHCR, LHR, Pro, DHA, Corruption Watch and JRS kicked off the day at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Catholic Church Hall in Johannesburg, with addresses outlining their rights and responsibilities as people seeking refuge in South Africa, from the countries of their birth. Also present was the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office (CPLO) Director, Father Peter-John Pearson, Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), Co-ordinating Body of Refugee and Migrant Communities (CBRMC), City of Johannesburg – Migration Unit and Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees of Archdiocese of Johannesburg.

The representative from the UNHCR started off by explaining that their work, in working with refugees, is facilitated through implementing partner organisations such as JRS. They work with organisations that have the expertise in dealing with the needs of refugees and it is through the livelihood programmes that JRS has initiated that we empower urban refugees –such as those within the South African context – to support themselves and their families. Immediate emergency assistance with the educational needs of children such as school fees and uniforms as well as other assistance in the form of emergency assistance with accommodation and food vouchers, are but few of the many forms of assistance that refugees and asylum seekers can obtain from JRS, as Sam Khoza, a social worker at JRS, Johannesburg, Country Office, explained.

Tshenolo Masha from Pro as well as Anjuli Maistry and Wayne Ncube from LHR expanded on the free legal services they provide for refugees in not just asserting their rights, but through the administrative processes that entrench those rights. Masha explained that the term “pro bono” is an old Latin term, that stands for “the greater good” and that their legal services aims to bridge this gap by connecting refugees and asylum seekers that cannot afford expensive legal assistance by connecting them with legal expertise in the field.

The real confrontation of the day emanated from Mr Sibonelo Manana’s address. Mr Manana, speaking on behalf of the DHA, is the Centre Manager at the Refugee Reception Office (RRO) at Marabastad. With a recent expose on the high incidence of corruption at Marabastad   – an expose Father David Holdcroft, JRS Southern Africa Regional Director commented on via a column -, the air felt heavy with the tension of burning questions refugees and asylum seekers had.

An elderly refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo spoke passionately about her legitimate concerns. She said that a culture of corruption is being created. “Staff start late and before you know it they are on a tea break, then on lunch break, they spend their day not attending to us, moving about and then before you know it, they go home. Of course people will pay bribes to get into the queue!” she said.

Mr Manana admitted that the Marabstad RRO has a long way to go. “The working hours at Marabastad are supposed to be from 07:30 AM to 16:00 PM.” he said. He also mentioned that an electronic monitoring system could be introduced to monitor work attendance and the efficacy of those tasked to work with refugees at the Marabastad RRO. He assured all those present that the DHA is looking closely at Marabastad RRO and he urged refugees and asylum seekers to report fraud and corruption whenever it is encountered. DHA is also looking at introducing a new electronic booking system for asylum seekers and refugees to make appointments during the assessment of their cases. This Mr Manana said: “Would eliminate the use of stamps, and therefore security guards can no longer be bribed to extort money from people for place in the queue.

Sessions such as these as a means of advocacy for refugees are important, not only as a means of sharing information with refugees as to what their rights and responsibilities are, but it is essential since refugees and asylum seekers can address their concerns directly and truthfully to those in power. Therefore the relationship between the government of the hosting nation and the refugee or asylum seeker is not only a top down arrangement, it is not an authoritarian relationship between the state and a subservient person, but much rather serves as a platform of equality, one where refugees can directly address their concerns and get answers immediately.

You can find out more about the event and the overall work of the Jesuit Refugee Service on the website of JRS.