A Journey of hope
By Hassan Isilow
Over 100 Somali refugees crumbled on to a small wooden ship, from Mombasa Kenya en-route to the shores of Mozambique, where they would latter “jump” over the South African boarder. A tired and frail looking Mohammed Ali, seen here after his arrival in Cape Town last week, was among those who successfully managed to cross into South Africa.
The 16-year-old, who had endured a four day travel on the sea, said entering South Africa felt like entering paradise. “I’m so happy to have successfully reached my destination. In South Africa, there is peace, democracy and human rights,” the excited teenager told Africa Witness, outside a home of a good Samaritan who is currently helping him with food and accommodation.
Mohammed said he was lucky to have left Somalia alive, because many civilians are killed there on a daily basis during cross fires between Islamic militia’s and government forces. He is not the only one to seek safe harbour in SA. “I’m told there are many criminals in South Africa, but I will endure them. It is better than being killed by insurgents in Mogadishu,” said Yusuf Roble, another new immigrant currently employed in a Somali owned shop in Mfuleni.
Many people are curious why Somali refugees travel so far to seek asylum in South Africa – a country with its own challenges – while there are many other African countries like Kenya and Uganda willing to accept refugees.
Dahir Ali, a Bachelor of Commerce student at UNISA, explained that many Somali refugees prefer South Africa over the other countries.
Why South Africa?
“It’s easy for refugees to start up small businesses in South Africa, compared to other African countries where asylum seekers are kept in refugee camps and their movements restricted. He said South Africa was heaven for most refugees because of its liberal immigration policies that allow refugees to seek employment and study if they did not start businesses.
According to Ali, many Somali refugees are impressed with the South African legal system. “Unlike in other African countries were refugees have no equal rights with citizens, here the legal system is fair for all those who live in the country.” The student, who has been in South Africa for two years, also has high praise for the country’s justice system, saying that once a refugee is arrested, he is not automatically deported, but given a fair trial.
Why Cape Town?
Over the last few years, the influx of refugee into the Western Cape, compared to other provinces, increased significantly. Okaparo Okocha, a Nigeria businessman, in the Cape Town CBD, said people in the mother city and the entire Western Cape region, were more hospitable to migrants. “People in the Western Cape are more understanding. They are friendly compared to those in Gauteng and other regions, which has lead to the influx of refugees in the region,” he explained.
Martin Mazibuko, a Zimbabwean migrant, said it was also easier to get employment in the Western Cape compared to other regions. “Here most employers look at your credentials and what you can offer in terms of skills, but in other provinces employers look at your nationality,” the professional teacher now turned photographer explained.
But Dahir Ali, who also holds a Bachelors degree in Business Administration from Mogadishu University disagrees. “It’s very challenging to find employment in the Western Cape, no matter how qualified you are.”
He said there were fewer job opportunities in Western Cape compared to Gauteng region where he previously worked. “If you went out for a month looking for a job in Gauteng, I’m certain you would find one, but in the Western Cape, you could search a whole year without finding a job.”
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