Johannesburg – Lobby groups for migrants and refugees in South Africa have labelled the proposed moving of processing centres for asylum-seekers and refugees to ports of entry as an indignity and inhumanity.
The comments, by African Diaspora Forum (ADF) and Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF), come a week before the closing date of submission of comments or representations on the green paper on international migration.The paper proposes relocating all processing centres for immigrants and refugees to the ports of entry.
Gabriel Shumba, chairman of ZEF and human rights lawyer, said the proposal is inimical to the spirit of integration and ubuntu.
“ZEF is unhappy with provisions moving processing centres for asylum seekers and refugees to ports of entry. It is a back-door way of introducing camps,” he said.
“These camps will obviously be centres of indignity, corruption and inhumanity if past experience in Lindela and Musina is anything to go by.
“This move opens up serious possibilities of renditions and xenophobic attacks. Moreover, the camps will make access to benefits of adequate legal representation, for instance, a near impossibility.”
Human rights activist and vice-chairman of ADF, Jean-Pierre Lukamba, said the main problem for South Africa isn’t mainly migration policy, but the implementation, transparency and accountability.
“There is negative attitude by officials towards African immigrants and also politicians are using immigrants as scapegoats to cover up their failure,” he said.
Lukamba also bemoaned the lack of trained law enforcement to understand different documents carried by migrants.
“Police don’t understand that refugees are protected by international instruments South Africa willingly ratified, such as the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees,” he said.
Shumba condemned the green paper on international immigration, which he said sought to measure the value of a refugee on what economic benefits he/she brought to the country.
“This should not be so. We have a moral and legal obligation not only to protect refugees from persecution by their governments, but also to grant them permanent residence after a period of time in the Republic,” he said. “The provision limiting permanent residence after five years from when a refugee has applied is not morally conscionable and should be revisited. It perpetuates an uncertainty in the lives of refugees, which have been in limbo for many years.”
Meanwhile, our sister newspaper The Star reported that the Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said South Africans should embrace international migration for the development of the country.
Gigaba was speaking at a policy dialogue with civil society on the green paper on international migration in Doornfontein last week.
“The policy seeks to implement a more rational asylum-seeker management system based on our assessment of required improvement, as well as international best practice,” Gigaba said. “It also seeks to make asylum-seeker process less attractive to economic immigrants.”
However, migrants lobby groups are of the view that Gigaba should extend the consultations to include grassroots communities that were not covered.