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Press Statement: International Day For Tolerance

Press Statement:

For Immediate Release:                                                                                 16thNovember 2019.

International Day for Tolerance: Upholding the Human Rights of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants. 

International Day for Tolerance was established by the United Nations in 1996 to be a reminder of the principles that inspired the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948.  This day is aimed at spreading a value – tolerance – which is central to universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.

This day is significant in the current era characterised byrising xenophobia, widespread violence, growing intolerances, injustice and human rights violations, largely characterized by a fundamental disregard for human rights, against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.

South Africa’s history is marked by institutionalized and societal intolerances. Under apartheid, immense discrimination and violence were instituted against black South Africans.  The apartheid legacy continues into contemporary South Africa.  Non- nationals fleeing poverty, violence and seeking out a better life in South Africa are the victims of everyday marginalization and discrimination.  The recent looting of non-nationals’ shops, massive destruction of property and killings in different parts of the country reminded us yet again, of the deep-rooted attitudes of prejudice and xenophobia against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants living in South Africa.

On this day, The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) is calling on all government leaders, relevant authorities and South African citizens to desist from negative perceptions and attitudes towards refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.  Instead, welcome and aim to strengthen social cohesion between host communities and refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, ensuring that their fundamental rights as laid out in Chapter 2 of the Constitution are realized and make available efficient services to provide them legal stay in South Africa.

It is therefore, important that we all commit ourselves to effectively promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants regardless of their documentation status and work towards the inclusion and recognition of the value that refugees, asylum seekers and migrants bring to South Africa.

 

For inquiries or more information please contact: Thifulufheli Sinthumule (CoRMSA) thifulufheli@cormsa.org.za/+27 71 358 0059  or Muluti Phiri (CoRMSA) advocacy@cormsa.org.za/+27711500113 or Abigail Dawson (CoRMSA)  communications@cormsa.org.za/+27748515683

 

What’s Happening This Week

30th September- 4th October 2019

This week CoRMSA and its member organisations are organizing and apart of various activities and events in forwarding our mandate to promote and protect the human rights of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in South Africa. These include:

01 October 2019

Abigail Dawson and Muluti Phiri are attending an urgent task team meeting regarding xenophobia hosted by Foundation For Human Rights.

02 October 2019

Muluti Phiri , advocacy officer in collaboration with Lawyers For Human Rights (LHR) will be hosting a community dialogue in Orange Farm discussing matters relating to xenophobia, migration and documentation.

CoRMSA is a member of the reference team for joint research project by African Centre For Migration and Society  (ACMS) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) looking at Migration and Disability. Abigail Dawson will be attending the inception meeting.

03 October 2019

CoRMSA will be attending the Ruth First Memorial Lecture at the University of Witswaterand where Achille Mbembe will deliver the lecture titled:  Migrancy and Populism: Is our politics normalising the language of xenophobia

04 October 2019

The CoRMSA Team will be attending and participating at Open Society Foundations South Africa (OSF-SA) meeting on xenophobic violence

 

 

Heritage Day Press Statement: Embracing asylum seekers, refugees and migrants

For Immediate Release:                                                                                                                              24 September 2019.

Heritage Day Press Statement: Embracing asylum seekers, refugees and migrants

The month of September is commemorated and celebrated as the National Heritage Month.                 24th September in South Africa is National Heritage day, where South Africans celebrate their culture and the  diversity of beliefs and traditions in a wider context of a nation that belongs to all who live in it.

Heritage day should aim to unite South African communities regardless of nationality  through cultural diversity in order to promotepeace, social cohesion, reconciliation and economic development,free from prejudice, hatred, xenophobia and other intolerances. This day is meant for all the people living in the country including Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Migrants. It offers a unique opportunity for all people to celebrate, embrace  and learn from a diversity.

This year’s heritage month is being celebrated  under the theme, “Celebrating South Africa’s literary classics in the year of indigenous languages”.   Unfortunately, for asylum seekers , refugees and  migrants there is little or indeed no cause tojoin in thecelebrations.   What was witnessed in the recent past weeks was inconceivable! The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa(CoRMSA),  strongly condemns the  xenophobic attacks  on non-nationals and the subsequent looting and destruction of mainly foreign owned shops by locals  in different parts of the country.  This behavior fueled by generalized myths and negative perceptions about  migrants, saw loss of many innocent lives  and displacement of  numerous non-nationals among them vulnerable women and children.

We pose a question of Ubuntu and ask all south Africans to celebrate this Heritage Day by  embracing social cohesion with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. This is what Ubuntu is meant to be!

South Africa’s rich and diverse heritage, including a  progressive and respected Constitution can manage to find a lasting solution to end all forms of discrimination based on people’s origins. With concerted political will, we believe that these xenophobic violence and attacks and massive destruction of property,  can be prevented and lasting solutions implemented.

CoRMSA urges all people living in South Africa, including asylum seekers, refugees and migrants  to boldly celebrate our diverse  cultural heritage in unity.

For inquiries or more information please contact: Thifulufheli Sinthumule (CoRMSA) thifulufheli@cormsa.org.za/+27 71 358 0059  or Muluti Phiri (CoRMSA) advocacy@cormsa.org.za/ +27711500113 or Abigail Dawson (CoRMSA)  communications@cormsa.org.za/+27748515683

Letter to President Ramaphosa to Intervene in Violence

 To: President Matamela Cyril Ramphosa 

Re: Request for your immediate political intervention on recent lootings, xenophobia and displacement of foreign nationals in the country. 

I write on behalf of the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA). CoRMSA is a national network of twenty-five (25) organisations whose main objectives and mission are the promotion and protection of the human rights of asylum seekers, refugees and other international migrants in ways that promote the well-being of all in South Africa and the region. Our mandate is to promote and protect the rights of asylum seekers, refugees (persons of concern) and other international migrants in South Africa. This mandate is achieved by advocating for the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and international migrants through lobbying, litigation, capacity building, and strengthening partnerships between refugee and migrant service providers to facilitate an improved and coordinated service delivery among member organisations and partners. 

We aim to foster social cohesion through public awareness campaigns and other strategies and facilitate the integration of asylum seekers, refugees, and international migrants into the South African society. 

As CoRMSA, we are deeply concerned about the recent and recurring spate of xenophobia against foreign nationals and lootings of foreign owned shops. These have lead to the loss of lives, displacement of persons of concern, and significant socio-economic impacts related to property damage. These acts represent a fundamental violation of human rights and disrespect for basic human dignity. We are concerned that if such acts are not addressed, they will further deepen and victimise vulnerable groups such as asylum seekers, refugees and migrants living in South Africa. 

In the aftermath of your successful appointment as the President of the Democratic Republic of South Africa, we look to you to lead this country to greater heights as a safe space for all, free from hatred, discrimination and related intolerance based on one’s nationality. 

We are therefore writing to request your strong and immediate political intervention through the power vested on you as the President of the Democratic Republic of South Africa to publicly condemn these acts of violence, xenophobic attacks, and looting that are underway in Gauteng Province and other parts of the country. CoRMSA urges you to encourage the law enforcement agencies to restore law and order within our communities and to hold those involved in these acts accountable. We ask you to condemn and request all authorities and leaders to refrain from making unverified and unsubstantiated public statements and utterances that promote hatred and divisions amongst South African citizens and foreign nationals. 

CoRMSA believes that social cohesion is not only for South African citizens but for all who live within the republic regardless of their nationality status. We request your office to activate stakeholder and community engagements to promote communities of peace and diversity. CORMSA stands ready to aid your office in this task. 

Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require further information or clarification on this matter. We believe that our request will receive the necessary attention and intervention it deserves from your office. 

Yours Sincerely. 

Thifulufheli Sinthumule (Mr). Executive Director 

Press Statement: Mandela Day 2019

Press Statement

For immediate Release:  18 July 2019                                                                                                                                                                                                     

 ‘To all those who walk the long road to freedom’

18 July 2019 in South Africa and around the globe, is a pivotal point of reflection: 25 years into South Africa’s democracy and Nelson Mandela Day, observing and commemorating one of many people who led South Africa to liberation together with his fellow political accomplices. The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) respects and acknowledges the heroism and bravery shown by leaders who fought for the liberation for  all South Africans from the oppressive and discriminative apartheid state. However, to this day, millions of South Africans including refugees, asylum seekers and migrants continue to face an oppressive and injust system in which people are denied their basic rights to education, housing, healthcare services, documentation, justice and freedom of movement and assembly based on their economic  and nationality status.

In light of the above, CoRMSA today reflects on Nelson Mandela’s own words:

“The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.”

Although the fruits of South Africa’s early freedom provided for a progressive and liberal Constitution with a Bill of Rights which claims to ‘enshrine the rights of all people in the republic’, the granting of protection to refugees, asylum seekers, migrants living in South Africa and poor South Africans has been negligible and purposely ignored by those in power. South Africa’s growing negative perception on immigration and refugee protection is mirrioring the global movement towards tighter border restrictions and control of people including unlawful limitation of “rights” granted by the Constitution. This movements stronghold is  held by divisive tactics of which humans are ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ determined by ones documentation status. On a daily basis asylum seekers who have themselves walked a long road to seek their own safety and freedom in South Africa, and other countries, are denied their right to legality, work and study particularly in South Africa. Approximately 96% of all asylum seeker claims and applications are rejected by the Home Affairs. Reasons for these are often unfounded. This high rejection rate, and inaccesible Department of Home Affairs and widespread xenophobic attitude has made daily life for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers treacherous and miserable, often leading to a violation of their basic human rights.

On this day, as South Africans, we cannot accept that 25 years into democracy we still find ourselves discriminating, hating, separating, segregating, oppressing, violating each other’s human rights, subjecting ones life to misery based on their nationality status. We ought to remember that our freedom was not fought alone, we have all walked a long road. The injustices we face are not faced alone and it is the next path to freedom that should be fought together with all those who live in South Africa.

CoRMSA calls for all South African to stand together and strive for better freedom, protection and united South Africa of All who live in South Africa with No prejudice and hatred based on one’s nationality. Our Constitution Preamble clearly stated that “South Africa Belongs to All Who Live in It”

For further information please contact Ms. Abigail Dawson (Communications and Media Officer) 0748515683/0114037560. Email: communications@cormsa.org.zaor Mr. Thifulufheli Sinthumule (Director) on 071 358 0059. Email:thifulufheli@cormsa.org.za.

Press Statement: World Refugee Day 2019

Joint World Refugee Day  Press Statement                                                                                     20 June 2019

For Immediate Release

“Everyone Should Take a Step With Refugees”.

 

Over the last ten years, South Africa’s response to refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable people seeking refuge in our country has seen a dramatic deterioration. The extent of litigation is reflective of the fact that the Constitution is trampled on by law enforcement agents addressing immigration and movement of people in South Africa. We see little change in the state of crisis in the asylum system and the management movement of vulnerable people in the region. So once again human rights and respect for human dignity remains a privilege to be bought and paid for if you are rich.

 

A year ago to this day Lawyers for Human Rights wrote an open letter to the President. The letter set out the kind of blockages in the system that makes it impossible for refugees and asylum seekers to access documentation at any of the Refugee Reception Centres in the country.  The crisis in the Asylum system is directly related to a failure by our government especially the department of Home Affairs to put in place a policy that ensures 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 [as enshrined in our Constitution].  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 . 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. Last year CoRMSA was part of a protest at the Lindela Repatriation Centre to denounce the use of detention as a tool to manage migration and to expose the plight of people in detention. Over the years, Civil Society has been ignored by the Department of Home Affairs and the relevant authorities on matters relating to migration and human rights violation. As members of the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa, we are concerned that the Department of Home Affairs has had six changes in the post of Minister of Home Affairs in a period of five years.

 

This year’s World Refugee Day takes place against the back drop of growing calls for a global emergency climate crisis to be declared. In this context, while the UN Global Compact for Migration was launched at a meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco in December 2018, recognized that the climate crisis is a driver of migration. Yet States are under no obligation to recognize the protection needs of climate refugees. To date, South Africa is yet to sign on to African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention).

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 . Africa which has been raped and pillaged for its resources during the colonial era, is now having to suffer severe consequences of climate crisis, a universal phenomenon.  Research published earlier this month in the scientific journal Nature Communications provides data and analysis based on forecasts of rainfall in Africa. Researchers are quoted stating that “Africa is one of the parts of the planet that is going to be most vulnerable to climate change. Our study of rainfall patterns shows there are going to be some very severe problems to face food security and dealing with droughts.”[i]

 We need an international plan backed up with resources to address the needs of climate refugees. In Southern Africa there is little if any disaggregated data to know what is causing the displacement both internally and across boarders and increasing numbers of destitute vulnerable populations.

 

We are making the following call to South Africa and the State and all nations of the world, as we mark World Refugee Day.

  • Address urgently the crisis and related corruption in the asylum system in South Africa;
  • Implement an accessible SADC visa to ensure safe movement in the region which is managed.
  • Recognize the plight and protection needs of people fleeing as a consequence of drought, and related consequences of the climate crisis, your so called “economic migrants”. We need political will to declare an emergency 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.

[i]https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jun/14/africa-global-heating-more-droughts-and-flooding-threat

 

In honouring the courage, strength, resilience and struggle that refugees face, CoRMSA, Lawyers For Human Rights, Amnesty International South Africa and Constitution Hill will be hosting an event ‘Building a Freedom Charter for Africa’, followed by a film screening of The Workers Cup at Constitution Hill, Human Rights Conference Room, Old Fort, Constitution Hill. EventDate: 20 June 2019, 9:00-13:00.

 

Joint statement by:  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.

 

For inquiries or more information please contact: Abigail Dawson (CoRMSA) communications@cormsa.org.za/ +27748515683or Sharon Ekambaram (Lawyers For Human Rights) sharone@lhr.org.za/+27836348924 or Thifulufheli Sinthumule (CoRMSA) +27 71 358 0059/ thifulufheli@cormsa.org.za

Whats Happening This Week?

17 June- 23 June 2019

This week CoRMSA and its member organisations are organizing and apart of various activities and events in forwarding our mandate to promote and protect the human rights of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in South Africa.

17 June 2019

17 June is a public holiday in recognising Youth Day. Please read CoRMSA Press Statement here.

Muluti Phiri, Advocacy Officer will be apart of a global, live conversation with the #BTeamWomen. The theme for this discussion is, The Invisible Women: In search of safety beyond borders. Join the conversation here:

19 June 2019

Muluti Phiri, Adovicay Officer will be participating at the adovicay framing workshop organised by African Centre For Migration and Society and partners. The workshop is themed: Migrating out of Poverty advocacy framing workshop: The migration of Ethiopian entrepreneurs and Zimbabwean domestic workers in South Africa.

Abigail Dawson, Communications and Media Officer will be attending a roundtable on  the experience of unaccompanied and separated migrant children organised by Lawyers for Human Rights.

20 June 2019

The 20th June 2019 is World Refugee Day. To commemorate this day CoRMSA in partnership with Amnesty International, Lawyers for Human Rights and Constitution Hill will be hosting an panel discussion to draft a Freedom Charter for Africa. This will be followed by a film screening of The Workers Cup as part of the Other Peoples Festival organised by Refugee Social Services, Durban.

Details for the event can be found here.

21 June 2019

CoRMSA is a partner for the Refugee Concert organised by Turquoise Institute. There is great line-up which will celebrate Refugees living in South Africa. Details of show and tickets can be found here

Press Statement: Youth Day 2019

Press Statement

 For immediate Release:                                                                                                                                                            16 June 2019.

“Refugee and Migrant Youth Are Youth Too – Says CoRMSA”

 June 16this South Africa’s Youth Day in commemoration of the 1976 Soweto Youth uprising. On this day, thousands of students from Soweto protested in defiance to Bantu Education, which institutionalised Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools. The Soweto uprising was a series of demonstrations and protests led by black school children in South Africa that began on the morning of 16 June 1976. Over 20000 protesting students were met by heavily armed police who fired live ammunition on protesting students killing many innocent students. This uprising gave significant strength to the liberation struggle in exposing the brutality of the apartheid state.

South Africa commemorates Youth Day annually in remembrance of the significance of the Soweto uprising and the bravery of those who fought and lost their lives for equality and justice for all in the country. This day consequently changed the social – political dynamics of South Africa.  This commemoration signifies the importance of engaging and supporting  all youth across the country irrespective of their nationality. Youth Day also aims at promoting and restoring relative peace and social stability amongst individuals including asylum seekers, refugees and migrant Youth of all ethnicities in South Africa and around the globe.

On this day, theConsortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), joins the community of South Africa and  rest of the world in commemorating and celebrating the struggle and bravery of the youth of 1976.  For today’s youth, CoRMSA acknowledges their courage and perseverance as they encounter struggles of inequality, poverty, injustice, unemployment and other forms of human rights abuses. The struggle for asylum seekers, refugees and migrant youth continues as they face various forms of human rights violations ranging from denial of access to basic education, health care service, documentations, unlawful arrest and detention to name a few.

CoRMSA calls all government departments, chapter 9 institutions,  and communities at large to build an inclusive South Africa where  young people realise their full potential, free from discrimination and prejudice in order to ensure that every young person regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, language, gender or religious beliefs enjoy and realise their human rights.  This realisation can be farfetched for those youths, living in conflict zones, unstable political situations and adverse family and community environments.

According to available evidence, globally, 1 in every 10 youths live in conflict zones with 24 million youth out of school.  This has led to increasing migration and isolation of youth in societies.It is prudent that the world and South Africa join hands in safeguarding the welfare of youths including asylum seekers, refugees and migrants through the acknowledgment and provision of basic human rights such as access to education, health, employment opportunities and access to legal documentation.

CoRMSA believes that every young person regardless of their nationality should exist in safe and enabling communities, free from xenophobia, discrimination and other intolerances. It is possible to co-exist and together attain economic freedom, social cohesion and enjoy the basic human rights as enshrined in the South African Constitution.

Press Statement: Mr President: Condemn Xenophobic Violence in Durban Kwa-Zulu Natal  – It is Your Fault.

Press Statement                                                                                                                                                   28 March 2019.

For Immediate release:

Mr President: Condemn Xenophobic Violence in Durban Kwa-Zulu Natal  – It is Your Fault.

On the 25thMarch 2019 the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development launched the National Action Plan (NAP) to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances. This comprehensive policy document provides measures to prevent, address and combat issues of racism and xenophobia.

A few hours following the launch of this critical document asylum seekers, refugees and migrants living in Inanda Road, South Coast Road, Kenville area, Burnwood area and Greenwood area in Durban Kwa-Zulu Natal have fallen victim to xenophobia. There are approximately 250 migrants including women and children seeking safety at the Sydenham Police Station as results of xenophobic attacks by local communities At 3am on 26thMarch 2018 people began banging on the doors of migrant homes and taking their possessions and belongs. A number of migrants are injured, hospitalised, displaced and are being treated in hospitals. Most of the migrants have lived in this community for up to nine years and are currently destitute and in fear of their lives. Is this democracy Mr. President Cyril Ramaphosa? Mr. President, you may hate foreign nationals (your current statement says a lot) and your hatred does not provide the nation you lead with the right to assault, tortures and attack foreign national living South Africa.  What do you mean when you say “Lets Grow South Africa Together” or is it another electioneering strategy at the expense of foreign nationals to win votes from poor and vulnerable South Africans, Mr. President?

With the NAP now a living document to combat such brutal and inhuman attacks, The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa is calling upon the President. Cyril Ramaphosa and Deputy Minister of Justice, John Jeffery’s, to step up and harshly condemn these inhuman attacks. We demand the South African Police Services to maintain the peace and bring to books those involved in this brutality and hatred. CoRMSA requests all the local and traditional  leaders including the president to spread and send  a strong warning message  amongst their own as well as South African communities to refrain from such life threatening violence. More importantly, CoRMSA calls on leaders to use the timely National Action Plan to take immediate action in putting in place prevention and combatting measures to ensure this document is enacted and is not a document that is good on paper.

With elections approaching xenophobic statements such of the president and premier of Gauteng province have been on the rise as parties attempt to persuade voters on their current and future successes. Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants have been scapegoated for failing service delivery and systematic issues of corruption, poor planning and mismanagement of public funds intended to benefit the voters. CoRMSA calls for all political party leaders to use accurate and fact based information in their electioneering, rather then pinning blame to a minority of already vulnerable people seeking refuge and protection in South Africa. CoRMSA reminds political leaders that their statements echo into communities and often fuel further xenophobic incidences like what is happening in Durban now. CoRMSA demands that political leaders refrain from using inflammatory and petty politics to gain votes.

For further information, please contact: Ms Abigail Dawson on 074 851 5683/011 403 7560 communications@cormsa.org.za