Uncertain fate for xenophobia refugees

 / 

07 March 2016 at 19:36pm

Durban – It has been almost a year since xenophobia reared its ugly head in KwaZulu-Natal, yet the future of more than 100 refugees still hangs in the balance as they pin their hopes on the UN sending them to another country, “where we will be safe”.

Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday, Musa Zakwe, of the South African Council of Churches – which has been supporting the refugees – said the group had left Hope Farm, Cato Ridge, where they had been housed for seven months by owners Andrew and Rae Wartnaby, on Tuesday last week.

Relations between the Wartnabys and some of the refugees had become strained in recent months with threats made on the family’s lives.

Zakwe said the UN Refugee Agency, UNHRC, might only be able to relocate some of the refugees to another country after a long process which would involve individual assessment and would not be a wholesale solution.

They were advised of this at a meeting, but when it turned out they would not return to Hope Farm, they were accommodated at a shelter in Durban’s CBD for the night.

A week later, and the women and children are still there, living in squalor in a 15-bed room with access to only one toilet on their floor.

The men are housed in another room on another floor with barely any space to step between their mattresses or bed bases.

Among them is Beby Irakoze who gave birth to her fifth child, Rae, five months ago at Hope Farm.

Another Congolese woman, Anna Zawadi is eight months pregnant. Both women are concerned about sanitation and want to take their children to live in a safe environment.

Zakwe said there was no money to pay for the shelter and the way they were living was unsustainable. He said the council advocated integrating the refugees into the communities where they had lived before the March and April xenophobic violence last year.

But the refugees fear going back into the communities and are afraid to venture out of the shelter into town because of their experience of xenophobia.

Zakwe said there was no reason for the refugees to feel unsafe in the city. They were not identifiable as foreigners, he said. “But I do understand why they are afraid,” he said. “They have been living in seclusion for some time and it is a normal reaction.”

On Friday, a meeting was held to discuss the matter.

A spokesman for Premier Senzo Mchunu said social workers had been tasked with doing profiles and the premier was co-ordinating assistance for the group.

“The premier’s priority is the 58 children who are living in conditions where sanitation is questionable and there is a shortage of water. They are also not going to school,” said Ndabezinhle Sibiya.

It was yet to be decided what to do next for the displaced families.

Mchunu was due to release a report by the special reference group on the xenophobic violence later this week.

The group – headed by former UN high commissioner for human rights, Judge Navi Pillay – undertook a study of the underlying causes, possible solutions and other factors.

Andrew Wartnaby said of the group’s leaving, that it had been “quite amazing”.

“The situation had deteriorated so drastically and their living conditions were so bad, we didn’t want them here anymore,” he said, “And they didn’t want to be here.”

After meeting the UNHRC, the group left of its own accord, he said.

In December the Daily News’s sister paper, the Sunday Tribune reported the Wartnabys had been living like prisoners in their own home after Andrew’s life was threatened by disgruntled refugees.

They accused him of being a government agent and claimed he was starving them and benefiting financially from donations made by those who wanted to help the displaced immigrants.

The refugees were also divided, with a rebel group denouncing their elected leader.

Wartnaby told the Sunday Tribune he was terrified to walk on his farm after a fire broke out. It was believed to have been started by the rebel group burning a tent.

“I am very scared of this group. It does not feel safe here. They threatened to cut off my head and kill my family. I walk very carefully around here. We have public order police on site every night since the incident occurred. I feel like a prisoner in my own house. It is a difficult situation,” Wartnaby said.

The Wartnabys took in the refugees – from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi – after the eThekwini Municipality closed the refugee camp where they had been staying in Chatsworth in June last year.

Anna Zawadi, from the Congo, who is eight months pregnant with her fifth child worries about the future of her children. They are living in squalor at a Durban CBD shelter after moving there last week.

Although the more than 100 refugees are supposed to leave the shelter during the day, they do not venture out into town, because they are still afraid after last year’s xenophobia.

July Sabuni prepares a meal in the crowded room she shares with other women refugees and their children.Xenophobia Durban

Holding thumbs that Home Affairs updates work for the better – written by Grant Foster

 

If it will only make the queues shorter next time we need a new ID card, we give the Department of Home Affairs’s upgrade of Live Capture System all the thumbs up we can muster.Home-Affairs March 2016

The Department says it will be working most of this week to upgrader their systems and this means the smart ID card and passport services will not be available. Wit a bit of luck full services will resume on Thursday – but only after the testing of the enhanced systems has been completed.

The upgrade will affect 142 Home Affairs offices that use the Live Capture System. All other Home Affairs services will be available at offices across the country, including services like issuing of birth, death and marriage certificates.

Changes include updating software to make it compatible with the new changes being made in improving the collection side of smart ID cards and passports, and introducing new developments to the system that will make it easy for clients to access Home Affairs services.

We hope it works!

 

 

South Africa Could Face ‘Food Riots’ As Drought Pushes Prices Higher

food-riot-620x350Grain South Africa on Friday again raised the prospect of “food riots” as a result of an expected hike in food prices caused by persistent drought conditions in the country.
Briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, Grain South Africa CEO Jannie de Villiers said South Africans should brace for a tough year ahead as the country was set to import millions of tonnes of grain as a result of low yields brought on by the drought.
“We have done a study of what happened in 2007/2008 in the world where the Arab spring took place and there’s some work being done that says there’s a high correlation when you’ve got high food prices and food riots. There’s a big possibility that it could happen in South Africa,” said De Villiers.
“When we look at what’s going to happen to food prices, we see it’s going to increase substantially and there might be that there’s going to be some public revolt about that.”
The biggest challenge for 2016, according to Grain SA, was to bring enough food into the country.
South Africa’s agriculture department predicts South Africa would have to import 3.8 million tonnes of maize to keep the nation fed.
– See more 

Immigrant children denied access to school

On 13 January, irate parents in Diepsloot West accused Muzomuhle Primary School and the education department of discriminating against their children because of their foreign national status.

A month later, a district school official spoke to GroundUp on condition of anonymity. The official, who fears reprisals for talking to the media, said between 30 and 40 children were turned away because they were not South African.

“Their documentation was not in order,” said the official. “You’ll find that because parents are illegally in this country, they forge documents just to be able to get their children into a school. You’ll get applications where there are two children with the same birth certificate and ID numbers.”

The official said such desperate measures were taken by parents when their asylum status lapsed or they had not been granted new work permits. “In Diepsloot, there are many undocumented [people] and they bring their children with them to this country while they are trying to survive.”

Muzomuhle Primary is used as the central point through which all school admissions for the area are processed. According to the school official, the school asks for the child’s birth certificate, the parents proof of residence and proof of asylum or work permit.

In January, News24 quoted Zimbabwean national Donias Tshuma. He said that his asylum status expired in October 2015 and that attempts to live in South Africa legally were hampered by officials at Home Affairs demanding bribes.

Acting spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Education, Oupa Bodibe, said district officials had confirmed with the department that each rejected student was asked to get proper paperwork in place, and to reapply when admissions opened again for 2017. Admissions for 2016 are now closed.

Bodibe could not immediately provide figures for how many children were turned away from the schooling system because of documentation problems. Nor did the department know how many of the rejected students had managed to find school placement elsewhere this year or if their parents were successful in gaining the proper documentation for school next year.

“Remember, if you are here illegally, as a department, we can’t do anything to assist you as that perpetuates the problem,” he said.

But an attorney in the Strategic Litigation Unit at Lawyers for Human Rights, Wayne Ncube, said the Constitution was clear that children have a right, regardless of documentation or legal status in the country, to gain admission in a school.

“The policy applies equally to nationals and non-nationals,” he said. “Not following the precepts of the department of education is not a basis on which the child should be expelled from the school.”

Ncube encouraged the parents to contact a suitable aid organisation to assist them with challenging the school district decision. He said the decision appears to be unconstitutional.

“This is not to say that the issue of the legal status of the parents in South Africa should not be addressed. It should be, but perhaps from the efforts of another department in government.”

Ncube said, “What has become very clear is that such decisions should not be taking place particularly in dealing with children. Children should always come first. I am sure that this issue is something that can be resolved if they (the parents) get the right assistance from an equipped organisation or law firm.”MuzomuhleHigh-20160215-BenitaEnoch

DHA scraps unabridged birth certificate rule for updated passports for minors

Cape Town – The departments of home affairs and tourism have finally announced that the controversial visa laws – which required all minors travelling to or going out of SA to have an unabridged birth certificates – will be replaced in favour of an updated passport for minors with printed details of both parents – to come into effect over 3 to 12 months time.

Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs, Mkuseli Apleni addressed media on Friday to relay the progress made since the announcement of the amendment programme outlined by the Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC)at the end of October last year.

Despite much upheaval from the tourism industry about the DHA taking the full three months allowed to the department in order to put the IMC changes into effect, Apleni said at the briefing,  “We are indeed on course”.

The DHA said going forward, South Africans applying for new passports for minors will receive a document detailing both parents particulars, and that this would be the accepted travel document instead of the unabridged birth certificate. The process however, still needs to be rolled out.

While South Africa has two versions of the birth certificate, an abridged (issued for newborns up until 2013) and an unabridged birth certificate detailing both parents details (issued to all new borns since 2014) – this requirement has not been scrapped, since all parents need to apply for it when registering their babies, the department said.

What will change over the next 3 to 12 months is the need to travel with the birth certificate document, since the new updated version of the passport will become the recognised travel document.

Added to this, the department said international visitors who have gone through the process of applying for a visa in order to enter South Africa, would not be required to provide birth certificate identification provided both parents are travelling with the minor. Parents of minors from visa exempt countries are however advised to strongly travel with the birth certificate, should it be requested by immigration officials.

Additional priorities to be addressed in the next three months include: 

– Add visa facilitation centres, including in Zimbabwe, United Arab Emirates and Botswana.

– Consider a visa-waiver for India, China, Russia and other countries.

– Look at issuing visas on arrival for persons travelling to SA having in their passports valid visas for the UK, USA and Canada or any other country that applies stringent checks on visitors to their countries, to ease travel for tourists.

– Consider granting a certain category of frequent travellers (business and academics) from Africa a 10-year Multiple Entry Visitor’s Visa.

– Open two Business Visa Facilitation Centres in Durban and Port Elizabeth, in addition to the centre recently opened in Sandton.

 

This article was originally published here