Gauteng health policy developments: New tariffs for refugees and migrants in public hospitals and clinics
In August 2013, a new policy was circulated in Gauteng which requires public hospital patients to prove they are legally in the country before receiving health care.
According to this policy, patients who cannot prove they are living in South Africa legally will have to pay in full for their treatment. Unfortunately, the request for full payment before accessing health services is also now being applied to those who have been receiving treatment before the policy was drafted.
This policy has been affecting many asylum seekers, refugees and migrants that visit public health care centres in Gauteng.
In some hospitals and clinics around the province this policy is being applied even though it is still a draft. Notices signed by the CEO of the Provincial Health Department are placed at clinics and hospitals informing foreign undocumented patients that they must make full payment before they can access health care services.
To those who are documented and want to access health services they will have to produce their documents before they can be treated and it will be up to the health practitioner to verify the documentation with the Department of Home Affairs.
Such practice at public hospitals and clinics is likely to exacerbate xenophobic attitude and unfair treatment toward asylum seekers, refugees and migrants’ patients by the health practitioners. The denial of access to health for failing to produce documentation will not only negatively affect asylum seekers, refugees and migrants but will also have far reaching public health implications if health care seekers are not able to access treatment. Those on chronic medication such as TB, HIV/AIDS and others may default and hence their lives be put at even more risk.
CoRMSA and other partners are currently engaging the Department of Health on this matter.
The World Social Forum on migration is coming to Africa in 2014 and will be hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa. A Technical Secretariat has been established and the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) serves in it with other organisations.
CoRMSA is responsible for the following committees in the Local Organising Committee: Resource Mobilising and Fundraising, Mobilising and Networking, Media and Public Relations and Documentation.
We will soon be approaching our members and partners among the civil society organisations that could serve on these committees. Organisations will be approached based on their areas of expertise.
Department of Trade and Industry organizes a workshop on Business Licensing Bill in the Western Cape Province
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) hosted a workshop in Cape Town on 9 October as part of their programme of provincial consultations on the Business Licensing Bill. The workshop was well attended with a number of organisations from the refugee and migrant sector as well as informal traders associations, small and large businesses represented. The workshop was organized around the key criticisms of the Bill that had been submitted to DTI following its publication and additional points raised by the Task Team established to coordinate a response to the Bill with recommendations.
The Bill seeks to review the provisions of the Business Act (1991) and requires all traders, from street hawkers through to large-scale formal businesses to obtain a permit. The main problem is that there is no indication given in the Bill as to what the criteria will be for issuing a permit. The situation for non-nationals is worse, in that it stipulates that all non-nationals (including refugees and asylum seekers) will need a business permit as stipulated in the Immigration Act, which requires a minimum 2 million rand investment amongst other criteria.
All of the participants were critical of the Bill and the DTI was not able to clearly articulate the policy objectives behind the Bill or what gap in the current legislation this new formula is supposed to remedy. One objective that DTI mentioned was that government needs to know who and where people are trading and doing business throughout the country so as to be able to target incentives.
The unanimous feeling amongst the participants was that instead of trying to impose an ill thought out licensing system, the DTI should rather focus on creating a register of business activity. Everybody present felt that there were so many contentious issues as well as so much uncertainty and lack of clarity that it was not possible to substantively improve upon the current draft. The preferred alternative of a register would be an information gathering exercise utilizing existing databases and records held by DTI, municipalities, various trader and business associations as well as obtaining new information where there were gaps.
A register would not be a license or a permit but an attempt to obtain information on the current situation. This would then indicate what measures DTI could introduce to assist entrepreneurs, traders, hawkers and the formal business sector rather than introducing additional burdens and penalties on those that are trying to survive though their own endeavors and in so doing are developing the economy of the country.
We will alert our members and networks of the details of other provincial workshops on the Business Licensing Bill as soon as we receive the information from DTI.
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has dismissed the Department of Home Affairs’ leave to appeal with costs and found that the Department unlawfully closed the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office (CTRRO) to new asylum applicants in July 2012. The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town (SCCT), as represented by the Legal Resources Centre, University of Cape Town Refugee Rights Unit, and advocates Steven Budlender, Ncumisa Mayosi, and Janice Bleazard, challenged the closure on an urgent basis in which the Western Cape High Court, in two separate judgments issued on 25 July 2012 and 19 March 2013, found the closure unlawful. Following these judgments, the Department sought leave to appeal to the SCA and oral arguments were heard on 3 September.
The SCA found that the Department’s decision to close the CTRRO to new asylum seekers was unlawful as it did not involve proper consultation with stakeholders and as such it was arbitrary and not founded on reason. Additionally, the SCA found further that the Department’s conduct during the closure was ‘inconsistent with the responsiveness, participation and transparency that must govern public administration’. The judgment requires the Director-General to reconsider the closure of the CTRRO after consulting with interested parties by 30 November 2013.
In the interim, the CTRRO remains closed to new asylum applicants and the thousands of undocumented asylum seekers in Cape Town must travel to one of the remaining RROs in Musina, Pretoria, and Durban to lodge and attend to their asylum claims. These individuals are required to report to their office of application for any subsequent permit extensions, interviews, or administrative action while their asylum claim is pending. As asylum claims often take years to be processed, asylum seekers will be required to report to that office numerous times before their claim is finally adjudicated.
In addition to the closure of the CTRRO, the Port Elizabeth RRO was closed in October 2011 and the Eastern Cape High Court found that closure was unlawful on 16 February 2012 and 20 June 2013. Despite those judgments, the Port Elizabeth RRO remains closed to new asylum applicants. With the closure of these offices, access to remaining RROs has become more difficult and many service users cannot access RROs due to long queues, bureaucratic irregularities, and corruption; even those that gain access to RROs face further difficulties once inside in obtaining documentation. These shortcomings result in more undocumented individuals who are at risk for unlawful detention and deportation and foster exploitation and corruption which worsens conditions for all people in South Africa.
The Department has indicated that the closure of urban RROs is a part of a new policy to relocate RROs to borders although no new offices have been opened since 2009. We are concerned that this policy would place undue strain on asylum seekers as well as local communities in border areas and result in the creation of de facto refugee camps on the country’s borders. We look forward to engaging with the Department in genuine consultations regarding the future and integrity of the asylum system in South Africa and insist that any policy enacted must respect the rights of all stakeholders.
For more information, contact Marilize Ackermann at 021 465 6433 or email@example.com
We are pleased to advise that South Africa was chosen to host the 5th World Social Forum on Migration in 2014. The forum will be held in Johannesburg. We will be providing regular updates on this event moving forward.
Duduza witnessed a wave of violence on foreign nationals last week on 15 and 16 August 2013 after Somali businessmen allegedly shot two people, a 23 year-old man and a 16 year old school boy. During our visit to Duduza on Monday, 19 August 2013, we learned that the 23 year old man was sent by his uncle to buy airtime at a shop owned by a Somali national on Wednesday, 14th August 2013, afternoon. It is alleged that this airtime could not be recharged as it was already used. Apparently, when the uncle inquired with the network’s customer care centre he was told that the airtime was used two days ago.
The young man and his uncle decided to return to the shop to either exchange the airtime or get their money back. This sparked a discussion between them and the Somali shopkeeper who did not want to buy their story. They left but returned to the shop later. When the young man and his uncle came back to the shop they found two more Somali shopkeepers in the shop. The argument turned ugly and one of the Somalis took the firearm and shot in the young man’s direction. He was hurt on the nose and shoulder. He was taken to Pulusong Hospital for treatment.
The community was alerted and came to the shop and wanted to break in but the police was then called and managed to intervene. The police also assisted in packing goods and escorting the shopkeepers to a safer place with their goods. After the Police intervention the community decided to leave the place and attacked another shop on the same street and set it alight. Five shops were attacked and one of them was looted and completely destroyed. This happened on Thursday.
On the same day, the police was informed of another shooting incident in Ndudula street where another Somali businessman allegedly shot a 16 year old school boy. The young boy was hit on the chest and was rushed to the hospital immediately. The reason for the shooting remains unclear and so far no one has come forward to open a case with the police. When the police rushed to the scene, they found two shops already burning. Suddenly the looting and attacks on foreign-owned businesses spread in all three sectors in Duduza. All the foreign shopkeepers, including Somalis, Ethiopians and Bangladeshis, were affected and forced to run for their safety. They all went to the police. In total, more than 100 shops were looted but the police managed to protect others and helped to move goods to a safer place where possible.
Also these incidents coincided with arson on the Councillor’s house in ward 84. The police said that investigations were still underway and that they could not provide any information until they gather all the necessary details leading to the incident. However, we also met with a pastor outside the police station on Monday who told us that there have been evictions of illegal settlements in that ward and that is believed to be behind the community’s anger leading to the burning of Councillor Silas Motimo’s house.
Foreign shopkeepers left the police station and scattered around Duduza, Dunnotar, Tshakane, Springs, Johannesburg and other nearby places.
The Duduza Acting Station Commander, Captain Hendries Bheki Mhlungu, told us that they had previously received reports that foreign shopkeepers have firearms. On both incidents last week the firearms were recovered. One of the firearms was reported stolen in Durban and the other one was stolen in Nigel.
As a way forward in terms of normalising the situation, a meeting was held last week among all stakeholders in Duduza where it was decided that school children should be told to go back to school. It is also reported that the community wants foreign shopkeepers back but the local leaders feel there is a need for a consultation with the public first the reintegration process in undertaken.
The case for the 16 year old boy was in Court on Monday. For the 23 year old man, bail application was to be heard the following day, Tuesday 20 August 2013. The Acting Station Commander also informed us that two people were arrested for public violence, one for possession of stolen property and one for break in and all were to appear in Court on Monday.
After a brief meeting with the Acting Station Commander, we then drove to Nigel where we were told some of the displaced foreign shopkeepers were accommodated at the Nigel Town Hall. When we arrived at the hall, the workers told us that they had received a call on Friday that displaced foreign shopkeepers would be brought to the hall but they did not see anyone coming. We then decided to go to Dunnottar where we were informed by some Ethiopian shopkeepers we met at the police that most of them decided to go there for accommodation. When we arrived in Dunnotar we found a large group of mostly Ethiopians scattered around the park behind Spar store. We held a brief meeting with them and learned that there was a church on the other side of the park that most of them attended and decided to come there as they had no place to sleep, food or blankets. However, others were sleeping outside in their cars parked around the park. They also told us that there were women and children among them.
After gathering this information we drove back to Duduza Police Station to give a report on what we had gathered and inquire on the way forward. Captain Mhlungu told us that there is nothing that could be done if the displaced foreign shopkeepers decided to decline a designated place and chose to go where to other places. And this prompted us to plan for a meeting with Disaster Management the following day.
On Tuseday, 20 August 2013, we went back to Duduza but we started in Alberton at the Disaster Management head office in Ekhuruleni. We were advised to meet Mr Jan who is the manager in the east where Duduza, Nigel and Dunnotar fall. We were also given his numbers but we could not get hold of him as he was not picking up his phones. We then drove to Duduza and started at the Customer Care Centre where we were referred to the Manager. We did not find the Manager in his office as he was attending a workshop in Nigel. However, we met with Captain Nxumalo, who seemed to be very sympathetic with the issue and advised us to persuade those Ethiopians who are sleeping in the park and in the church in Dunnottar to go to Nigel Town Hall. We drove to Dunnottar together with Captain Nxumalo and her other colleague from the Ekurhuleni Metro Police to speak to Ethiopians. The Customer Care Centre Manager we missed earlier joined us together with the Duduza Acting Police Station Commander a few minutes before we started the meeting. The Ethiopians agreed to move to the hall in Nigel and we started transporting them at 13h30. Others drove to the hall using their own cars. When we arrived there the hall was locked and we did not see anyone we could talk to. We then called the Customer Care Centre Manager to find out why the hall was not open. He said he had to finalise some paperwork with the Nigel Municipality. We had also agreed earlier that we would have a stakeholders meeting at the Duduza Police Station that afternoon to develop a way forward.
At around 14h30 we went back to Duduza for the meeting leaving people behind outside the Nigel Hall. The meeting started late and the people were growing inpatient as the hall was still closed. The meeting discussed four main issues namely, normalization of the situation, venue, security and the way forward. In terms of normalization, it was highlighted that a meeting was held last week to calm people’s emotions and encourage learners to return to school. Also an assessment would be made to determine whether it is conducive to have displaced foreign shopkeepers back in communities now or later. Consultation with the local community would be needed. A task team was appointed consisting of SAPS, Councillors, religious leaders, Community Policing Forum, affected foreign nationals (Ethiopia, Somalia and Bangladesh), schools and the municipality. On the issue of venue, it was reported that the hall was not open then and that people were still standing outside. But the Customer Care Manager said that Nigel Municipality had requested him to send a signed letter before the hall can be opened. This was done and he was expecting the hall to be open any time. In terms of humanitarian support at the hall, Jan from the Disaster Management said there was no arrangement to provide anything to the displaced foreign shopkeepers as their mandate is to assist the poorest of the poor and that the event was not declared a disaster. This was however contested and he then suggested he would contact his superiors to seek for advice. The task team was advised to look into this issue. In terms of security, the SAPS and the CPF will take care of this component. As a way forward, the task team was vested with the power to coordinate the events and activities. They will report to the larger group starting from next week Tuesday, 27 August 2013.
The meeting ended at 16h00 and the hall was still not open. We then drove back to Nigel together with Captain Nxumalo and were standing outside the hall with the displaced people waiting for the hall to be opened. At around 19h00, we were already planning on how to take people back to the church in Dunnottar where we they were because the hall was still closed and we did not have any update on whether the hall is going to be opened or not. After a while, at round 19h20 the hall was opened.
After the hall was opened, to our surprise, the displaced foreign shopkeepers said they no longer wanted to sleep there. We asked them why they kept us waiting for so long if they knew that they were not going to sleep there. Captain Nxumalo told them they should no longer expect any assistance from the police if they do not sleep in the hall. In the end they accepted and we agreed to sort out the issue of blankets, food and toiletries the following morning, Wednesday 21 August 2013.
In trying to find some assistance, we contacted SASSA, UNHCR and the Red Cross to provide some emergency support to the displaced people. A delegate from SASSA visited the hall yesterday afternoon and said they could only provide a Social Relief of Distress not an emergency package. UNCHR said they cannot provide any support where there is Disaster Management. They urged us to liaise with the provincial or national office in case the local office fails to provide any support. We contacted the Red Cross on Wednesday and they promised to visit the hall and do needs assessment to determine what kind of support is needed. We are still waiting for feedback.
Duduza Broader Forum Meeting: Task Team’s report back – 27 August 2013.
As a follow up to the previous meetings, CoRMSA together with the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and African Diaspora Forum (ADF) delegates attended the Duduza Broader Forum meeting on 27 August 2013, where the Task Team had to report back on new developments. The meeting was attended by foreign shop owners, SAPS members, Duduza Customer Care Centre, Councillors and other community structures including the Community Policing Forum. The Task Team had drafted a report on the issues that need to be addressed. Unfortunately, we arrived late while the report was already presented to the broader forum. It was mentioned that foreign shop owners asked the Task Team to allow them to return to the community to renovate their shops while the process of engagement with community members is taking place. Their request was not granted because this could disrupt the process and it may also expose some of them to criminals and further attacks.
A broader public consultation meeting will be held on Sunday, 01 September 2013 in Duduza. Time and venue will be confirmed. This meeting aims to share the report, listen to people’s concerns and develop appropriate recommendations. The meeting will be chaired by the MEC of Health. It is believed that this public consultation meeting will give direction to the reintegration process and forge a way forward on what need to be done. The actual copy of the report was not shared with the members of the public to protect the information contained in the document. The Task Team feels that if the information in the report is known to the public it is likely to be distorted and taken as imposing ideas to the community. The community should be allowed to express their concerns freely and these should then be consolidated with the Task Team’s report.
Invitation to attend the screening of the Invisible Picture Show on 21 June in Commemoration of World Refugee Day
As part of the End Child Detention Campaign and in commemoration of World Refugee Day on 20 June, Lawyers for Human Rights in association with the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa and the African Centre for Migration and Society invites you to attend the screening of the Invisible Picture Show.
Hundreds of thousands of children worldwide are affected by immigration detention. Children fleeing war, violence, famine and poverty are too often met with iron bars and isolation. Hidden from the public, they are vulnerable to abuse and often lack adequate access to medical care and education. The media are routinely denied access to detention centres, meaning that it is very difficult for the world to know about or understand the plight of children in detention. The children are, in many respects, invisible. The Invisible Picture Show will help make the invisible visible.
The film combines real children’s voices from inside detention with powerful animation. Using exclusive interviews recorded during telephone calls to children locked up in detention centres in one of four countries (Australia, Greece, South Africa and the United States) talented animators will bring the words of these children to life, creating a powerful, extraordinary visual experience to express the world of each child.
When: 21 June 2013
Where: The Devonshire Hotel, Braamfontein
Time: 2pm – 4pm
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
For queries contact Melissa du Preez on 071 879 0327
CoRMSA observes Child Protection Week by Reflecting on the impact of xenophobia on Children and youths
Child migrants and refugees are often in the shadows of their parents, invisible and yet around. As such, even when there are attacks targeting foreign nationals, not much is said about the silent victims of these attacks, refugee and migrant children. These children are as much affected by the attacks as the adults, some even more so as they are unable to express their trauma. As we observe Child Protection Week, we call for the protection of foreign children in South Africa.
Many of these children like South African children, in addition to having to deal with the trauma of violence and displacement; they also face challenges with regards to access to services in the country. These include a wide range of services including access to education, access to adequate identification and for those who qualify also access to social assistance among the many challenges.
Some of these children have been separated from their parents and are unaccompanied in South Africa. It is currently quite challenging for unaccompanied minor children to access appropriate care in the country due in the main to some officials not knowing or understanding how to deal with cases involving foreign children. However, the fact of the matter is that when a child has been deemed as a child in need of care, that child has to be protected and taken through the social development and justice system until suitable care has been found for them. In cases where re-unification with parents is possible, it is important that these be followed through. We thus call upon government to finalise comprehensive Standard Operating Procedures for addressing the protection of unaccompanied foreign minors in South Africa.
It is also important to recognise that refugee and migrant children face specific vulnerabilities and xenophobic violence makes the situation worse. Some of these children have already been through traumatic experiences in their own countries experiencing wars and therefore should be protected in every way possible. Research has shown that the environment within which children are raised plays a pivotal role in the kind of adults they become. The effects of community violence have also been analysed and it has been realised that these range from post-traumatic stress which can lead to substance abuse and general disjointedness. A University of California research also illustrated that children who are exposed to community violence tend to also grow up to be violent in their adult life. Exposure to community violence also leads children struggling to relate to their peers appropriately.
To the adult victims of xenophobia, the aftermath of an attack brings with it time to look for another place to settle, call the police and find justice, but we forget that we will be scarring the young children for life. The non-national children will likely grow up bitter and contemptuous towards South Africans, whilst the local children will get one fundamental lesson; that it is ok to hurt people who come from foreign countries.
As we commemorate Child Protection Week, CoRMSA would like to further urge communities to reflect on what their actions today will do to the future generations. Raising children under such harsh conditions is a serious threat to the possibility of ever achieving social cohesion and peaceful co-existence between foreigners and South Africans as it will almost guarantee that the rift established between the locals and the non-nationals will continue to grow from one generation to the next. CoRMSA calls on all stakeholders, community leaders, government and civil society to take a stand against xenophobia and make efforts to develop more aggressive social cohesion programs so that we can protect the children who are the future from also becoming violent when they become older. We call for justice for the victims of xenophobic violence so that children can in turn realise that such actions are not acceptable and have implications.
The attacks directed at foreign nationals residing in Orange Farm and the looting of their shops in both Orange Farm and Diepsloot resulted in the displacement of hundreds of non-nationals in the country. Eastern Cape was also not spared, as the violence there saw the death of one Somali national and many people displaced. This sadly happened in the month that the African continent was celebrating 50 years of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity/African Union whose main objective is to promote solidarity among Africans. These attacks have not only affected the well-being and self-reliance of refugees and migrants, they have also brought about some hardship to the communities the affected foreign nationals lived in.
Having visited these two affected areas, CoRMSA has learnt of the inconveniences caused by the disruption of services to the communities. Some of the community members who are South Africans lamented the fact that since the shops have been closed, it has become difficult to access some of the basic necessities that they normally buy from the spaza shops and expressed hope that the situation is resolved quickly.
So many questions have been asked about whether or not these incidences can be categorised as xenophobic attacks. Whilst it is important to ponder and answer these questions, the critical issue is that there is a need to act now to prevent further attacks and displacement of non-nationals or other communities in the country. Clearly these are an indication that if we do not address the underlying socio-economic, governance and informed citizenry issues, we will continue to see attacks like these.
The police, churches, civil society and other government and international actors continuously come together when such incidents happen, to try and salvage the situation. The victims are then reintegrated into those communities for a season, but it has become almost guaranteed that xenophobia will erupt again. Whilst there have been a number of efforts to engage communities and try and encourage social cohesion, it has become clear that there is an urgent need for more resources, efforts and initiatives to be put in place in order to stop xenophobia and realise more peaceful communities. There is a need for more pragmatic, national level coordinated across sectors action to address xenophobia and all forms of violence and discrimination in South African communities.
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