Weekend event starts advocacy effort to protect asylum-seeker rights and pledge campaign to fight xenophobia
JOHANNESBURG – On the eve of World Refugee Day (20 June), the People’s Coalition Against Xenophobia (PCAX) hosts a commemorative event on Saturday 18 June in the Katorus area, a scene of xenophobic violence earlier this year.
At this event, PCAX will launch a campaign against the proposed Refugee Amendment Bill of August 2015. We oppose the Bill because we believe it will roll back the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees, rights currently protected in the Refugees Act of 1998. We see this Bill as part of an international trend which is failing humanity. In Europe, and more recently Kenya, the context has become more regressive with states eroding the very concept of refugee-hood and abdicating their direct obligations under international law to provide safe refuge in cynical agreements, like the dirty EU-Turkey deal.
In South Africa, the new amendments confront asylum-seekers with deportation if they fail to apply for refugee status within five days of entering the country. In addition, applications for asylum will be assessed “to determine his or her ability to sustain himself or herself, and any dependences with the assistance of family or friends for a period of at least four months”, while limiting or prohibiting him or her from working.
These and other clauses in the Bill ignore the dire situation in which many asylum-seekers find themselves when they seek refuge in a foreign country. They are a clear violation of international human rights practices and put an unfair burden on those who have no family in South Africa.
On Saturday we will also launch our pledge campaign, SIBANTU BANYE ‘We are one people’. The campaign seeks to get as many people in South Africa to sign a pledge setting out a vision of a society that is caring and welcoming, based on human rights-based principles. Pledge signatories are asked to commit themselves to working actively for such a society in their own communities.
“Xenophobia was not a singular event that happened in 2008 and 2015 in South Africa. It is an ongoing problem and one which needs ongoing attention. That is why the People’s Coalition Against Xenophobia was established by a range of civil society organisations, including Awethu!, SECTION27, Corruption Watch, Lawyers for Human Rights, Doctors Without Borders, Legal Resources Centre, Amnesty International, Treatment Action Campaign, Right to Know Campaign, Equal Education and others,” says Maurice Smithers, project manager of the Coalition.
“With these campaigns we’re launching, we seek to preserve the dignity of people regardless of their origin, or status and provide compassionate South Africans with a means of rallying to reclaim and protect our common humanity.”
Date: Saturday 18 June | Time: 10am – 1pm
Place: Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa Mt Gerizim Vosloorus Assembly, 738 Cintso St, Vosloorus (address responds on Google maps and on GPS)
FOR MORE INFORMATION, & INTERVIEWS, CONTACT:
Maurice Smithers, Awethu! – 082 3737705
Marc Gbaffou, African Diaspora Forum – 083 5147367
Sharon Ekambaram, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) – 083 6348924
Roshan Dadoo, C0RMSA – 082 8162799
Manson Gwanyanya, Legal Resources Centre – 083 8750043
Kayan Leung, Lawyers for Human Rights – 078 3027887
Yolisa Mfaise, Amnesty International – 082 7099142
- Refugees Act, 130 of 1998 - http://www.gov.za/sites/www.gov.za/files/a130-98_0.pdf
- Refugees Amendment Bill, Aug 2015 - http://www.gov.za/sites/www.gov.za/files/39067_gen806..pdf
- Law Society Objections - http://www.lssa.org.za/upload/LSSA%20REFUGEES%20AMENDMENT%20BILL%20Comments%2031%20August%202015.pdf
- CoRMSA Objections - http://www.cormsa.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/final_CoRMSA_Submission_RefugeeAmendmentBill_August-2015.pdf
- Scalabrini Objections - http://scalabrini.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Scalabrini-Centre-Submission-on-Draft-Refugees-Amendment-Bill-2015.pdf
- LHR Objections - http://www.lhr.org.za/sites/lhr.org.za/files/lawyers_for_human_rights_submission_on_refugee_amendment_bill_2015_7_september_2015.pdf
- LRC Objections - http://awethu.org.za/sites/default/files/files/2016-04-12/LRC%20Submissions%20on%20Refugees%20Bill.pdf
MORE ABOUT EU-TURKEY DEAL RAMIFICATIONS:
- In March the EU agreed to compensate Turkey financially and politically for blocking desperate people from Europe’s shores and to accept deportees from Greek prison camps.
- Europe is outsourcing the care of refugees to a country that may also deny them the right to claim asylum. If replicated by many nations worldwide, the concept of refugee will cease to exist.
- Europe is sending a dangerous signal to the rest of the world: countries can buy their way out of providing asylum. The ramifications of this deal will likely reverberate globally, possibly leading to a ‘domino effect’ among states, and also here in Africa.
- Kenya may be the first to face an acid test for humanity.
- On 6 May, the Government of Kenya announced that it is disbanding its Department of Refugee Affairs as a first step to the permanent closure the Dadaab refugee camps – citing national security reasons and decreased international funding for refugee assistance.
- South Africa the ability of refugees to seek asylum is coming under threat with the Refugees Act Amendment Bill.