New Report – Economic injustice: Employment and Housing Discrimination Against LGBTI Refugees and Asylum Seekers in South Africa

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This report seeks to raise awareness of the discrimination that LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers face in the South African employment and housing markets. Discriminatory practices against the LGBTI community and foreigners, coupled with the lack of enforcement of existing anti-discrimination laws, create barriers to employment and housing for LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers. The South African asylum process further hinders LGBTI asylum seekers’ access to stable and secure housing and employment.

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Continued Mayhem at Refugee Reception Offices

The first two months of 2012 saw asylum-seekers in Cape Town being denied their rights and treated horribly at the Maitland Refugee Reception Centre. Although services have never been very good, there was a clear deterioration in January and February.

On Wednesday, 25 January, a 35-year old Bangladeshi man collapsed and died while waiting to apply for asylum at the center. Officers were notified of the man being ill, but refused to allow him to move to the front of the line and therefore receive medical attention sooner. The next day, Thursday January 26, a young man from Zimbabwe was beaten by security guards while waiting to be assisted in the application process. When he tried to press criminal charges against his assaulters, the Maitland police would not let him do so. Only after PASSOP paralegals launched an official complaint with the Provincial Police Commissioner and the Internal Complaints Directive (ICD) was the man allowed to file his charge several days later.

Over the past four weeks the most pressing issue has been that virtually no newcomers are being allowed to apply for asylum. All that do not have a so-called ‘border pass’ were prohibited from lodging their application. Similar situations have developed at Reception Centres in Durban and Pretoria. These border passes are in theory supposed to be issued to people at the border as they enter the country, but this is rarely the case. Whether this is a deliberate action or just miscommunication between Immigration and Home Affairs is a ground for speculation, but what it means is that newcomers are stuck in limbo, because virtually none of them are able to get a border pass (and thus apply for asylum).

PASSOP maintains that the requirement of the border pass is unlawful, and together with the Legal Resource Center, we are an applicant in an ongoing court case against the DHA concerning this issue. While we await the court date the regulation remains in place, however, and it has spawned an array of hawkers and even security guards to illegally sell the forged border passes to desperate asylum seekers for R1000-R1500. However, most who wait outside the Refugee Center do not trust these counterfeit documents, or have the money to purchase them, and are for weeks now already forced to live without documentation.

During a recent monitoring visit by PASSOP members, a number of other unacceptable circumstances were noted. People, including pregnant women and children, had been sleeping outside the center in order to secure a place in the beginning of the line and be assisted earlier in the day. Some of the women had sick children, but could not take them to the hospital without the necessary documentation they were waiting for.

The lack of order in the system has for years plagued the effectiveness of the Centre. The system needs to undergo serious change to improve the efficiency and quality of service given to the people who come seeking help. Thus far, the DHA has refused the input and assistance of civil society in implementing an improved system that gets rid of the chaos and therefore minimizes the risk of corruption and violence at the Centers. We will launch a renewed effort in the coming weeks and months to work constructively with the DHA to improve the service delivery at the Maitland Refugee Reception Centre, while at the same time working hard to help newcomers realize their right to apply for asylum.

Anti-Xenophobia Radio Talk-show Series

In partnership with Kagiso TV, PASSOP has launched an anti-xenophobia talk-show series on four different community radio stations that will air between February 21st and March 15th. The talk-show series, funded by the Open Society Foundation, will convey messages such as respect for human rights, the rights and responsibilities of foreigners, and the fight for equality. It aims to draw inspiration from the heroic struggle of the people of South Africa against the system of Apartheid, including the pivotal role that the international community, in particular the governments and people of Africa, played in this. The talk show is also guided by the present day struggle for equality, justice, development, the rule of law and respect for human rights. It is based on the premise that only together are we able to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

There will be four episodes, each covering a different theme. On each show PASSOP activist and staff member Lucky Katenhe will partner up with a local South African community leader to guide the debate and answer phone calls from the public.

The talk shows will be on the below community radio stations on the following days and times. We encourage you to tune in and listen!

Gauteng stations

  • Jozi FM: Tuesday March 6th and 13th at 20:00
  • Kasie FM: Tuesday March 6th and 13th at 18:30

Western Cape stations

  • Bush Radio: Thursday March 8th and 15th at 15:30
  • Radio Zibonele: Thursday March 8th and 15th at 18:20

LGBTI Refugee Support and Advocacy Project Up and Running

Our LGBTI Refugee Support project has been officially launched. To celebrate the launch in style and put the project on the map, we attended the Cape Town Gay Pride Festival on Saturday (see image below).

We are certain that it will go a long way in advocating for the rights of LGBTI refugees in South Africa and supporting them in the many adversities they are faced with. The project is the first of its kind in South Africa and it supports LGBTI refugees in a number of ways, including:

  • Providing paralegal support for documentation, labour, health care, education, housing, banking and other community issues;

  • Searching for employment opportunities;

  • Creating a solidarity network;

  • Holding community workshops and integration events;

  • Providing short-term humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable cases.

PASSOP Volunteers at Gay Pride Parade in Cape Town

 Another major aspect of the project entails advocacy and research. At present, the rights of LGBTI refugees are often disregarded in an often homophobic environment. Raising public awareness through the media and civil society, building up partnerships, peer-to-peer learning and training between different civil society organizations; and monitoring and conducting research on the South African government’s sexual refugee policies and their implementation are all part and parcel of this.

 Project Coordinator, Guyllain Koko, is excited about the many things the project has set out to achieve throughout 2012: “we have set ourselves ambitious goals, but we are positive that we will reach these and help many disenfranchised and vulnerable LGBTI refugees in the process”. We encourage anyone interested to come visit us at our newly rented office (adjacent to the main office) at 37 Church Street in Wynberg. For more information, or if you want to find out how you can get involved, please contact our office, or Koko directly at: 0785029626.

UPDATE: Zimbabwean Dispensation Project

The Zimbabwean Dispensation Project (ZDP) continued throughout the festive season. PASSOP is still monitoring and providing support at the Bellville Department of Home Affairs, the office which is handling the project for the Cape Town region. It has been a long process which has put great strain on the DHA as they have been doing more than their normal mandate. PASSOP appreciates their commitment to seeing the project through to ensure all applications will be dealt with.

Whether in Bellville or at the Office, via phone and facebook messages, we continue assisting and advising applicants on issues like permit extensions and passport transfers to contacting banks and employers where necessary. We are still encountering applicants who have not yet received their SMS to do fingerprints or whose application is still pending. Our latest report from Pretoria is that the ZDP project will be finalized by the end of March.  From our observations and interactions, we are hopeful that this date will be the end, particularly because the Bellville section dealing with ZDP will be closed, which will create further complication and delays.  Currently there about 50 permits collected per day from Bellville, and a further 5-10 people a day coming to have their fingerprints taken.

We continue to publish the permits ready for collection on our website; in the month of February alone we published the names of over 1700 people whose permits are ready for collection on our website. This allows applicants to see if their permits are ready without taking a day off work to physically report in.

Board Member Ronnie Kasrils celebrates wedding to Amina Frense with PASSOP staff

On Thursday February 2nd PASSOP Board member Ronnie Kasrils and Amina Frense signed the marriage register at Wynberg Home Affairs. Both have through their lives stood for human rights, for an integrated society free from racism, colonial occupation and dispossession, homophobia, poverty and xenophobia. It is in this light that they chose to invite PASSOP’s staff to witness to small ceremony and hold the reception at PASSOP’s offices afterwards.

PASSOP’s director Braam Hanekom toasted the couple at the reception, while Mr. Kasrils reminded the crowd that both his and his new wife’s family were immigrants (his from Eastern Europe and hers from Malaysia and Indonesia). He commended PASSOP on its efforts and successes over recent months and years towards a better realisation of the rights of immigrants in South Africa.

We are proud to have been part of such a great union. Mrs. Frense is the SABC’s current managing editor for television news and current affairs and has had a long career as a journalist and activist. Mr. Kasrils joined the ANC in 1960 and was a vocal anti-apartheid activist and a founding member of Umkhonto we Sizwe. He was appointed deputy minister of defence in 1994 by Nelson Mandela and held that position until 1999 when he became minister of water affairs and forestry. He was appointed minister of intelligence services in 2004 and left the cabinet after the resignation of President Thabo Mbeki in 2008.

COMING UP IN MARCH

PASSOP has big plans for the month of March, including launching some of the following campaigns, events and projects:

  • Deportation Monitoring Project – together with Solidarity Peace Trust – to analyse how the increasing numbers of people who are being deported are treated, and whether appropriate processes are followed.

  • Launch of report on remittances: the high cost and inefficiency of these transfers and the implications that this has for the lives of Zimbabwean migrants.

  • LGBTI Office Launch – come celebrate the new project and its own office with us on March 14th. For more information, contact us at 021 762 0322.

  • Launch of report on the access of immigrant families with disabled children to support in South Africa.

  • Event for Human Rights Day on March 21st – watch this space!

PASSOP Appeals to Minister for Extension of Zimbabwean Dispensation Project Deadline

Press Statement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PASSOP Appeals to the South African Minister of Home Affairs for the Zimbabwean Dispensation Project deadline to be extended by at least 2 months and for her to put pressure on Zimbabwean Consulate

PASSOP has today written and sent a letter to the South African Home Affairs Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, appealing for an extension of at least 2 months to the July the 31st deadline and for her to take up Zimbabweans’ concern that the Zimbabwean Consulate is undermining the Z.D.P. process through failing to deliver passports.

To read the letter please click the following link.

LATEST UPDATE: The Department of Home Affairs has just stated that the deadline for the ZDP would be moved back by one month, until the end of August. To read our new press statement on this development, click here.

For comment please contact :

Langton Miriyoga: 084 026 9658

Braam Hanekom: 084 319 1764

PASSOP Appeals for an Extension of the Zimbabwean Dispensation Project Deadline

37 Church Street, Wynberg, Cape Town

Office: 021 820 4664, Fax: 086 517 6812

Attention: The Honourable Minister of Home Affairs

CC:  Honourable Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs,

Director General of Home Affairs

17 July 2011

Att: Honourable Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

CC: Director General of Home Affairs, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs

Re: PASSOP appeals for an extension to the Zimbabwean Dispensation Project Deadline

Dear Honourable Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Firstly we would like to reiterate our belief that the Zimbabwean Dispensation Project (Z.D.P.) was a progressive and positive move towards the documenting of undocumented Zimbabwean nationals in South Africa. Since its inception we have been monitoring the Zimbabwean Dispensation Project in the Western Cape. We have a notable presence, with 2 monitors stationed 5 days a week at your Wynberg office for the last 6 months (in the Western Cape), and thus feel that we are well positioned to have an opinion on the progress of the Z.D.P. After also monitoring the delivery of passports from the Zimbabwean Consulate and working with Z.D.P. clients with specific cases, we are very concerned that the process will not be completed by the 31st of July.

We acknowledge that in the final stages of the application process –the last weeks of December 2010– the department went out of its way to accommodate applicants and enabled tens of thousands of applications, through provisions which included allowing applicants without passports to apply and postponing the taking of fingerprints by making them part of the collection process. We also commend the department both for its efficient adjudication process as well as its consistency in adjudication outcomes. We feel, however, that the distribution of permits and collection of outstanding documents, including passports and fingerprints etc., is not only time -consuming, but also less flexible and sometimes even beyond the control of both the department and applicants.

This assessment is based both on the large backlog of uncollected fingerprints, permits and the inability of the Zimbabwean Consulate , which has been both uncooperative and inefficient in delivering passports to applicants. Thus, while we recognize that there is a need for projects to have deadlines. Guided by our monitoring observations, it is our view that given the proximity of the Zimbabwean Dispensation Project deadline and the large amount of permits yet to be issued, there is a need to extend the current deadline. PASSOP therefore appeals to you both for an extension of at least 2 months and for you to take up our concern with the Zimbabwean Consulate, which, in our view, is undermining the Z.D.P. process through failing to deliver passports.

We hope that you consider our appeal, as we see this as urgent and necessary to ensure that Z.D.P. completes its objectives.

Yours truly,

Braam Hanekom

Director of PASSOP

Press Release: Swaziland Democracy Campaign Cape Town Chapter Launch

Launch of Cape Town Chapter

Swaziland Democracy Campaign

PRESS STATEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 11/07/2011

In the wake of the worsening crisis in Swaziland, civil society organizations from the Western Cape officially launched the Cape Town chapter of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign. The Swaziland Democracy Campaign is a coalition united around the demand for democracy, peace, and security in Swaziland. The chapter was officially launched on 9 July in Salt River and the meeting was attended by 31 people representing various organisations including PASSOP, COSATU, COSATU Young Workers Forum, SACTWU, SACCAWU, DENOSA, BHASO, CECAngola, Workers World Media Productions as well as members from the local DRC, Angolan, and Ugandan communities.

Those in attendance addressed the influence that the South African Government has, based on Swaziland’s reliance on South Africa for aid and trade. Moreover, the Swaziland state income is dependent upon the revenue received from the South African government through its share of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) funds. Approximately half of its annual R11billion budget is dependent on the SACU. This affords our government tremendous power and influence for pushing for a democratic dispensation in Swaziland in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the Swazi people. Recently we’ve also learnt of the approaches to the South African government by the Swazi king for a loan of over R1billion. We call on the South African government to refuse this loan and to stop SACU payments to the government of Swaziland and push the king and his regime to step down and enable a process towards a democratic Swaziland.

The SDC of Cape Town plans to meet regularly to ensure effective communication and strategizing. In addition, the representatives expressed priority in strengthening the capacity of the SDC, which is imperative in steering union and political leadership to bring about better conditions in Swaziland. It was agreed that the Cape Town Chapter will be hosting a protest outside parliament, the details of which will be discussed at our next meeting.

The next meeting will be held on 13 August at 9h30 at Community House in Salt River. The political economy of Swaziland will be highlighted and discussed in the upcoming meeting. The media is invited to be part of this educational session.

For comments, please contact the SDC Western Cape representatives: Martin Jansen 0828702025; Mike Louw 082 339 5443/ 021 448 0045/6/7;  Braam Hanekom 0843191764.