Call to treat refugees fairly
The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) has appealed to hostile communities in the country to stop treating refugees harshly. “We ask South Africans to treat refugees with respect and dignity. These people left their countries of origin because of war or persecution and choose to seek asylum in this country,” said CoRMSA spokeswoman Gwada Majange.
She urged local community and religious leaders to help integrate refugees into their host communities. “We believe some refugees have skills that they can teach to their host communities and vice-versa. Harmonious living is what we are advocating for.” Her comments follow renewed attacks on refugees living in the Western Cape. Last month 5 Somali nationals were killed in townships around the Western Cape.
On a different note, CoRMSA has asked the South African government to stop the practice of arresting and detaining child immigrants. “We appeal to the government of South Africa to stop detaining children – not only in law, but also in practice, as well as to stop deporting minors.” Majange said although SA law prohibits the detention of children for immigration reasons, there were many children currently being detained in police stations and the Lindela migration facility awaiting deportation.
“There are currently six children in detention. These include five Zimbabwean boys detained at the Musina police station in Limpopo and a 16 year old Congolese boy who has been detained at Lindela since February 2012,” she reported. Majange also revealed that between October and December 2011, 86 children between the ages of 2 and 17 years were detained and deported to Zimbabwe. This is the highest number of children who are deported from South Africa.
CoRMSA will be launching the 2012 Detention Annual Report next week. The report was compiled by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR). According to Majange, LHR is the only organisation which has been regularly visiting Lindela detention centre in order to provide pro bono legal representation to detainees.
She said the detention report was compiled from monitoring assessments, including consultations with adult and child detainees, as well as state officials. She added that regular monitoring enabled LHR to identify trends and legal issues, as well as shifts in practice and national policies. She said the Lindela Repatriation Centre has accepted to assist them in their campaign activities which include, among others, a video recording session by a group of 20 children who have been trained in media monitoring at the Troyeville Primary School by Media Monitoring Africa (MMA).
Majange said children will get actively involved in the drive by recording their own video messages for the appeal entitled “Speak up for children behind bars”. Their voices will join the ones of other children from Greece and Australia who have already spoken up against child detention. The videos can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/speakuphindbars. Efforts to get a comment from the Lindela repatriation centre were futile as no one answered the phones. This article was originally published on The voice of the Cape.