The 24th of September, Heritage Day, in South Africa, is reserved as a national public holiday to celebrate the diverse cultures and traditions that make up South Africa’s contemporary social life.
South Africa’s history is scarred by divisive regimes including colonialism and apartheid which sought to create a segregated and unequal society through a racialized social structure. In celebrating South Africa’s liberation and the wealth of cultural diversity. This day of celebration enables the prioritisation of the all people from across the African continent and rest of the world who contribute to the rich cultures and forms of knowledge we have in South Africa today.
The theme for Heritage Day 2020 is ‘celebrating South Africa’s living treasures’. In launching this theme Minister Nathi Mthethwa noted that the Department of Arts and Culture would ‘double-up the effort in ensuring that these suppressed knowledge forms receive the recognition and support they deserve; not only for aesthetic reasons, but also because of the potentiality of their political economy.’ This was also echoed by President of Republic of South Africa in his speech on the easing of lockdown alert level on the 16th September 2020 when he reiterated that “I urge everyone to use this public holiday as family time, to reflect on the difficult journey we have all travelled, to remember those who have lost their lives, and to quietly rejoice in the remarkable and diverse heritage of our nation”. He further indicated that it will take the combined effort of each and every South African to restore our nation to prosperity and development.
For inquiries or more information please contact: Thifulufheli Sinthumule (CoRMSA) email@example.com/+27 71 358 0059 or Muluti Phiri firstname.lastname@example.org/+27 71 15 00113 Abigail Dawson (CoRMSA) email@example.com/ +27 74 851 5683
Immediate release: 20 June 2020
World Refugee Day 2020: Standing As One with Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Today, on the 20th June 2020, the world stands in solidarity and strength with all refugees and asylum seekers in marking World Refugee Day. World Refugee Day is an opportunity to firstly, raise awareness and honour the courage, strength and determination of millions of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homes under the threat of persecution, conflict and or violence. Secondly, to celebrate their contribution and inclusion in our neighbourhoods, cities and country.
This year’s theme for World Refugee Day is ‘Every Action Counts’. At a time when the world is faced by a global health emergency which is having unprecedented social, economic and psychological impact on the most vulnerable people in our societies, which includes refugees and asylum seekers, and whose vulnerability has been compounded by the impact of COVID-19. It is imperative that as a global community we do all that we can to support and protect those who need it most.
On this day, CoRMSA welcomes and supports the timeous victory by member organisation Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, in their urgent litigation challenging the exclusion of asylum seekers and special permit holders from the COVID-19 special relief of distress grant. Meaning a specific group of non-citizens including asylum seekers and special permit holders can access these funds, if eligible. This is a progressive move in ensuring the most vulnerable and needy in our communities are provided for. It is imperative in the fight against COVID-19 that or response includes all those at risk to ensure the effectiveness of the response.
The resurgence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement around the globe has shown the immediate need for a world that is more inclusive and equal for all people. The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) commits itself to continually pursue and advocate for South Africa’s social fabric, economic practice and policy implementation to be accessible and inclusive of refugees and asylum seekers and all those living in South Africa.
While this year is different from others and we can’t commemorate this day in person as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, under this years theme ‘Every Action Counts’ CoRMSA is inviting everyone to follow our social media campaign #StandAsOne in which people can participate in various actions including donating to organisations assisting refugees and asylum seekers, watching short films, making a pledge to include refugees and asylum seekers and standing in solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers living in South Africa and around the globe.
For inquiries or more information please contact: Thifulufheli Sinthumule (CoRMSA) firstname.lastname@example.org/+27 71358 0059 or Abigail Dawson (CoRMSA) email@example.com/ +27748515683 or Muluti Phiri (CoRMSA) firstname.lastname@example.org
Immediate release: 16 June 2020
[PRESS STATEMENT] Youth Day 2020 “Black Youth Lives Matter ”
June 16th is 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 language of instruction. 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 10 000 peaceful protesting students were met by heavily armed police who fired live ammunition on protesting students, killing many innocent lives. 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 who live in South Africa. This year’s Youth Day is being commemorated in the midst of a global health pandemic, COVID-19, which has fundamentally affected and changed the way we think about our futures. At the same time the global #BlackLivesMatter movement is continuing efforts to dismantle and rise up against historical structural racism which has resulted in police brutality, inequality, xenophobia, racism and disregard for human rights.
In South Africa, COVID-19 has once again revealed the absence of real transformation to ensure the wellness and dignity of all people living in South Africa. The #BlackLivesMatter movement shows yet again the strength, solidarity and importance of young people in re imagining the world they want to live in, similar to the struggles of the 1976 youth in Soweto.
Read Full Statement here
In light of child protection week, as organisations that work with vulnerable children, we call on the South African government to note that the pandemic will gravely impact the most vulnerable children in our society. Vulnerable children include: unaccompanied and separated migrant children, stateless and disabled children who may or may not be documented. With the lockdown many of these children will be severely impacted pressured by growing economic vulnerability in households and increasing the threats of abuse, malnutrition, abandonment and exploitation.
Read our full statement here: https://adobe.ly/3ct9pt6
The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and The Scalabrini Center of Cape Town (SCCT) have developed a Guide to Working with Vulnerable Children in South Africa.
This guide can be used by social workers, professionals working in child protection and the general public to provide you with more information on identifying vulnerable children, their rights and various pathways for documentation, a key component to ensure protection.
As we mark Child Protection Week we are calling on all who live in South Africa to pledge their protection of #AllChildren to ensure the prosperity of South Africa’s future.
You can download the guide here
Immediate release: 22nd May 2020
FOSTERING PAN-AFRICANISM AND INCLUSIVITY DURING COVID-19 AND LOCKDOWN PERIOD
On this day, 25 May, in 1963, Africa made history with the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU – now known as the African Union (AU). This day is intended to celebrate African unity and provides an opportunity to acknowledge the achievements of the peoples and governments of Africa over 55 years ago to decolonize the continent and pave way for a greater economical emancipation for Africa, while reflecting on the common challenges that the continent face in a global environment. In Africa, the month of May is dedicated to building a caring African nation, in pursuit of promoting lasting peace and prosperity in the continent and the rest of the world. Hence this year’s theme is “Silencing the Guns, creating a conducive environment for Africa’s development”. This theme is aligned with the African Union Year 2020 theme in line with the vision in AU Agenda 2063 and 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development.
This theme, underpinned by the Covid-19 global pandemic, calls for a more united Africa now more than ever before.
This year’s Africa Day comes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has seen and created further divisions amongst nations in Africa and the rest of the world while instilling fear for the future social and economic development. The COVID-19 pandemic has limited Africa as whole to recognise and showcase African cultural diversity and its unity that coordinates and intensifies African cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa. As we commemorate and celebrate Africa Day, CoRMSA has noted with concern, during this Africa Month, amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the grave injustices, discrimination, social and economic exclusion of vulnerable groups in South Africa and the rest of the continent.This has included refugees, asylum seekers, economic migrants, women and children on the move, particularly those coming from other African countries. It is disheartening that a number of these vulnerable groups are being excluded from accessing COVID-19 and lockdown impact relief measures, such as food, health services and economic relief measures that have been implemented by the South African and other countries’ governments. COVID-19 does not discriminate nor exclude, everyone is equally at risk of contracting the virus. Therefore, arbitrary qualifiers such as nationality, documentation status, race or gender cannot be indicators for eligibility for these relief measures.
In March 2020, the outgoing AU Chair H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, called upon on all warring parties, to immediately stop fighting and engage in lasting ceasefire to give a chance to peace-making efforts. The outbreak of the Corona Virus pandemic, which is killing thousands of people and weakening economies across the globe, is a call on all nations to do their utmost to defeat this pandemic. Now, it is the time for South Africa, as the current chair of the African Union (AU), through the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa, to lead by example and urge other African leaders, relevant authorities and communities across the continent to facilitate, coordinate, celebrate and reflect on African strategies of the past, present and future that will inspire and strengthen the African continent in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic together. To facilitate innovation to accelerate a forward looking AU Agenda 2063 and 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development. Notable, is the relevece of Pan-Africanism, it is founded on the belief that African unity is important to economic, social and political progress that aims to ‘unify and uplift’ people of African descent, as well as establish a solid foundation of a sustained Pan African movement that forges unity and solidarity.
CoRMSA re-affirms that all African migrants are equal in humanity and should not be excluded and discriminated based on their nationality and documentation status. COVID-19 cannot be used as a justification for exclusionary measures but rather as a means to promote unity and solidarity among Africans. On Africa Day, the philosophy of Ubuntu – is critical for strengthening African solidarity at a time when it is more significant than ever before.
For further information or comment please contact:
Immediate release: 27 April 2020
Minister Tito Mboweni: True Economic Transformation will be Equal and Accessible to All who live in South Africa
Xenophobia does not only exhibit itself in physical violence, attacks or the looting of foreign owned properties and belongings. It is pervasive in South Africa’s public discourse that insinuates, hatred, prejudice and the government’s official statements and policies which institutionalise the exclusion and discrimination of refugees, asylum seekers and foreign migrants and their children.
This was, once again, well demonstrated in Minister Tito Mboweni’s press briefing on the government’s economic and social measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Minister Mboweni publicly asked that the new economy respond to his anecdotal figures on foreign nationals in South Africa’s hospitality industry. Mboweni further stated ‘that any establishment wanting to open must have a new labor market policy which prioritises South Africans’. While he claims this is not xenophobic, it undeniably insinuates further xenophobic sentiment, policies and promotes division.
In a State of National Disaster, which has had a pervasive economic impact, especially on the most vulnerable in our society, there is no place for pin pointing blame on refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants, who to date have been largely excluded from social and economic relief measures instituted by the government. This tactic has become stereotypical of leaders in South Africa and across the globe by blindsiding populations into thinking that complex issues can be resolved simply by excluding certain groups from labor markets.
CoRMSA recognises the great task your Department has in carrying South Africa through an economic crisis compounded by historically high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality. Prejudice, discrimination and exclusion should not be the pillars of your response in this democratic country that embraces and respects the human rights for all irrespective of nationality. Rather, true economic transformation will be equal and accessible to all who live in South Africa.
While it is well known that immigrants make significant contribution to South Africa’s economy. A 2018 study by The OECD Development Centre, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the European Commission, on the contribution of immigrants to South Africa’s economy noted that:
Immigrant workers make a significant contribution to the South African economy. Immigrants are well-integrated into the labour market in terms of employment and unemployment rates, and in general do not seem to displace native-born workers. The contribution of immigrant workers to GDP is estimated to be close to 9% in 2011, and just below their share in employment. Nevertheless, immigration is raising income per capita in South Africa, while immigrants also make a positive net fiscal contribution.
Secondly, the majority of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers take up positions in the informal economy characterised by precarity, exploitation and no labor protection. Since the enforcement of the national lockdown, to a large extent the informal economy has shut-down. Resulting in many families not having any form of income. For people who depend on subsistence from selling clothes, food, services including domestic work, amongst others, this has considerably heightened people’s vulnerability and puts at risk people’s ability to take measures to prevent contracting COVID-19 as they try to survive. Furthermore, refugees, asylum seekers and foreign migrants have largely been excluded from both social and economic relief measures put in place in response to COVID-19, extending their vulnerability even more.
Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are integrated in South Africa’s labor market and more importantly communities. It is imperative in ensuring the protection and well-being of all people in South Africa through the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in a national humanitarian, health and economic crisis, that relief measures are extended to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants and that local communities rally together to ensure the protection and safety of all people.
Our response to prevent the further spread and consequences of COVID-19 relies on our collective effort to ensure the inclusion and protection of all people. A response that does not include refugees, asylum seekers and migrants is detrimental to the response itself.
For inquiries or more information please contact: Thifulufheli Sinthumule (CoRMSA) email@example.com/+27 71 358 0059 or Abigail Dawson (CoRMSA) firstname.lastname@example.org/ +27748515683
Download statement here
Immediate release: 27 April 2020
National Freedom Day 2020 Commemoration. Citizenship Cannot be the grounds for survival.
The 27th of April, Freedom Day, in South Africa is ordinarily a day of celebration and consideration on South Africa’s hard fought democratic achievements and challenges. This Freedom Day after three decades, is the first under national lockdown. In the face of an unprecedented national and global health emergency the Government of South Africa declared a National State of Disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act and subsequently enforced a national lockdown to curb and flatten the curve on the transmission of COVID-19 (Corona Virus). However, this National Freedom Day in South Africa is meant to celebrate freedom and commemorate the first post-apartheid election held on this day in 1994.
The lockdown has been necessary in responding to the national health emergency to save lives of many citizens and non-nationals. At the same time, it has made stark historical socio-economic inequalities in South Africa. Furthermore, the lockdown has witnessed gross violations of human rights in cases of police and military brutality, evictions and the demolition of people homes despite a moratorium, pervasive food insecurity and exclusionary practices towards refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and their children living in South Africa, through the government and various departmental responses, have continued.
This Freedom Day, as never before, calls for all of us irrespective of nationality to stand united in our struggle for continued social and economic justice and to save lives for all who live in South Africa. We are only free when we are all free from discrimination, exclusion and preferences. It cannot be correct that after more than 26 years in democracy that citizenship is used as the grounds for survival. Everyone has the right to life.
The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) is deeply concerned by the discrimination and exclusion of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in the various measures put in place to provide economic and social relief for people in South Africa in response to the National Disaster and its impact. Hunger, unemployment and financial insecurity is not determined by the nationality of individuals. It is crucial that the national response to the current and ongoing crisis in South Africa is people centred, promotes and upholds the human rights for all, and human dignity is central to its purpose. We are only as free as the freedom of our neighbours.
In President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Freedom Day keynote address today, he fittingly stated that: ‘freedom for some is freedom for none’. As President Cyril Ramaphosa leads the nation, and continent, as chair of the African Union, through an unmatched global pandemic we call on him and all Ministers of government to approach any response to the COVID-19 National Disaster and lockdown, both economic and social, with the values of solidarity, inclusivity and Ubuntu. This is not the right time for politicians to score political points but to enhance the protection and survival for all.
For inquiries or more information please contact: Thifulufheli Sinthumule (CoRMSA) email@example.com/+27 71 358 0059 or Abigail Dawson (CoRMSA) firstname.lastname@example.org/ +27748515683
Download letter here
NIAWG Advocacy Statement on COVID-19 and vulnerable children
The National Interagency Working (NIAWG) group on Unaccompanied, Separated and Migrant Children in South Africa would like to commend the Government of South Africa for its stance towards curbing and reducing the spread of COVID-19. The NIAWG would like to take this opportunity to emphasise that in its response the Government of South Africa should ensure that all children regardless of their country of origin or immigration status are protected and included in light of the unique impact of the declaration of a State of Disaster on vulnerable children. Such a response would be in line with the South African Constitution, as well as the four main principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which are non-discrimination; the best interests of the child; survival and development of the child; and child participation.
Every day vulnerable unaccompanied, separated and migrant children – including citizen,
migrant, refugee, asylum seeker and stateless children (“USMCs”) face unspeakable threats to their safety and well-being even in the absence of a pandemic. For many of these girls and boys, access to basic health care and facilities is extremely limited, while cramped living conditions make social distancing unfeasible. In light of the COVID-19 crisis these children are at heightened risk of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence amidst intensifying containment measures.
The NIAWG calls on all concerned stakeholders and authorities to make every effort to prevent any form of harm and discrimination during the State of Disaster. The NIAWG highly commends the measures that government took through the Department of Home Affairs in ensuring that anyone whose permit expires prior to the end of lockdown will not be penalised as long as they present themselves to an RRO within 30 days of the lockdown ending. Including the closure of the RROs to prevent putting refugees and asylum seekers at risk of close confines, for protracted periods and the known efforts to develop remote processing of asylum and refugee documentation.
It is however, worth to further note that where USMCs are undocumented their vulnerability is increased and their access to basic human rights and services are particularly limited. USMCs in this category are most vulnerable to harm and infection with COVID-19. These children are usually reluctant to seek medical and other assistance due to their lack of documentation for fear of possible arrest, detention and even deportation. Therefore, the inclusion of all USMCs in the Government’s response to COVID-19 is imperative, because if they are not protected and included, the Government’s efforts to flatten the curve is compromised. This principle should be communicated to all South Africans, including government employees, to avoid any discriminatory sentiments that may undermine the national efforts to fight against the pandemic.
It is paramount that all response measures are implemented with the best interest of the child in mind.
In this period of massive containment and limited movement USMCs, like the majority of children in South Africa, are exposed to heightened risk of violence in the home, being forced to be in close contact with perpetrators of the violence or abuse. It is key that the work of organisations that work to ensure adequate protection of these children are allowed the necessary permission to keep in contact with at risk children.
Finally, the NIAWG notes that it is undeniable that the spread of COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the income earning capacity of many worldwide, the same impact does not exempt USMCs especially those who are in child headed households. It is therefore imperative that USMCs are included in economic safety net measures that may be introduced to mitigate the effect of loss of income caused by the effects of COVID-19. Leaving this category of our society out of our national response safety nets may necessitate negative coping strategies among these vulnerable members of our societies. Hence, NIAWG emphasises that effective response would and should consider the economic impact of the pandemic on migrant families and USMCs.
The NIAWG recommends that the Government of South Africa:
1. Includes USMCs in its public health response (including screening, testing and
2. Refrains from arresting or detaining any child, particularly USMCs, regardless of their
immigration status or lack thereof;
3. Ensures that health institutions issues proof of birth in the form of a maternity
certificate to all mothers giving birth during this period regardless of level of
legal documentation or nationality.
4. Ensures that The National Economic Response Plan is inclusive of USMCs to prevent
negative coping mechanism which may compromise the Government’s Covid-19
5. Includes USMCs in the Department of Education’s planning and implementation of its
plans to negate the effects of school closures.
6. Ensures that Child and Youth Care Centres (CYCCs) have adequate resources and
space to implement social distancing and or social isolation.
7. Extends the refugee and asylum seeker permits of all USMCs in the care of the state
automatically for the next 6 months to prevent travelling.
8. Ensures that adequate services are in place for children at risk of abuse, neglect and
Members of the National Inter-Agency Working Group on Care and Protection of USMC:
Do you need legal or psycho-social assistance during the national COVID-19 lockdown and ongoing pandemic. While many organisations physical offices are closed some of us are available over phone and email. See the info-graphic below for the details of some of CoRMSA’s members who you can contact.