Attacks on Migrants expected to decrease
By Hassan Isilow
CAPETOWN- Human rights organisations expect to see a sharp decrease in violence against refugees in South Africa. This is according to Lutsha Zebei , a human rights peer educator with Africa Unite.
“We expect to see a sharp decrease in violence against refugees, because we have been training thousands of refugees about their rights, so they can now go to court and report whoever is abusing them,” he told Africa Witness while presenting a paper at a human rights awareness workshop in Bellville.
The one day sensitization workshop was organised by a number of advocacy and human rights organisations, which included the Somali Refugee Aid Agency (SORAA), Alliance for Refugees (Afrisa) and Africa Unite.
Zebei said in the past many refugees were unaware of their rights and as a result, they were frequently abused.
“Now that we have trained thousands of refugees, we are sure that violence against them will stop since they will be in position to report their perpetrators,” he said.
Zebie also warned migrants against abusing their women and children, stressing that violence against women was internationally recognised as major human rights violation.
“The women present in this workshop can now take the knowledge they have acquired to educate women in their communities about their rights,” he advised.
Another speaker, Jean Luke a representative of Afrisa, urged participants to always report cases of abuse to the police. If the police fails them, he said, they should report the matter to his organisation.
“I’m aware that some times police officers refuse to open cases when refugees go there to report crimes. If you encounter such a problem, please come to our office and we will help you.” He pledged
Luke added that refugees conducting businesses in townships often faced intimidation especially when they laid a charge against a South African national.
“We are working closely with other human rights organisations to give confidence to refugee traders who fear reporting cases because of reprisals.”
Presently the University of Cape Town, Refugee Law Clinic is completing a research project on access to justice for refugees and asylum seekers who are victims of crime. Parts of this report which Africa Witness has seen , reveal that most refugees have little knowledge of how the criminal justice system works in South Africa.
“Our study recommends that efforts need to be made to work with foreign community organisations to deliver education and awareness training on the work of the police and of the courts.” A researcher working on the project who wished to remain annonimous told this Publication.
The researcher said there were many reports implicating the South African Police Services(SAPS)of raiding foreign businesses, under the guise of searching for illegal cigarettes or firearms. But once the police officers entered the businesses premises they reportedly stole cash, cell pones, airtime and cigarettes among other items.
The report noted that in some cases the culprits may not have been bona fide members of the South African Police Services(SAPS). But, due to fear of further victimization, most foreign traders feared reporting such cases to police.
The report recommended that the SAPS should seriously consider addressing these crimes – both the bogus officers and the real ones – as they seriously undermine the capacity of SAPS to work effectively with the foreign communities in solving crimes.