What are you doing on world refugee day?

Posted on June 20, 2011. Filed under: Refugees, Xenophobia |

Kate Lefko-Everett

Today is World Refugee Day, and with xenophobic violence once again making recent headlines in South Africa, it is important cultivate a better understanding of the rights of refugees internationally and in this country, as well as to stand  against intolerance in our own daily lives. I thought I would share some interesting articles and links with readers, and encourage feedback and accounts of your personal experiences as well!

The UNHCR acknowledges that the international context  in which it works has changed dramatically since the refugeee agency was established 60 years ago, and tasked with the protection of about 2.1 million Europeans displaced by World War II. The Global Trends report of 2010 “shows that 43.7 million people are now displaced worldwide”, and within this number 15.4 million are refugees. (source)

South Africa is a signatory to both the 1951 Convention relating to the  State of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol (as of 1996), as well as to the 1969 OAU (now AU) Convention governing the specific aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa.

The South African Refugees Act of 1998 also guarantees refugees (those who have been granted asylum) full legal protection, as consistent with the provisions of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, as well as the right to seek employment and entitlement to the “same basic health services and basic primary education which the inhabitants of the Republic receive”. (Section 27)

In an interesting article that appeared in the Pretoria News and Cape Times today, Jacob van Garderen of Lawyers for Human Rights discusses the progressive, integration-oriented approach underpinning the Act, and whether or not the spirit of this important piece of legislation has been implemented in practice.

I have also received a lot of interesting information on Twitter today from PASSOP (@PASSOP) and the UNHCR (@Refugees), as well as from Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba (@mgigaba), who sent out an important message earlier today:

“Spare a thought today for the refugees, asylum-seekers and internally-displaced people all over the world. Say NO to XENOPHOBIA!”

For more insight into refugee and migration issues in South Africa, have a look at the articles below, which appeared in previous editions of the SA Reconciliation Barometer newsletter:

Citizenship, National Identity and Migration: A long walk to social cohesion Vincent Williams (2011)

South Africa: one of the worst places for refugees, Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh (2009)

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