May 31st Protest Outside the Western Cape Refugee Reception Centre

PRESS STATEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Protest to Demand the Department of Home Affairs Serves ALL people EQUALLY under the law.

Protest on Thursday May 31st

10:30 to 12:00

Outside the Maitland Refugee Reception Centre

 

PASSOP, in conjunction with other civil society groups, will be staging a protest outside the Maitland Refugee Reception Centre on Thursday, May 31st from 10 to 12.   Our protest aims to highlight the following grievances:

  • The ongoing and incessant abuse of asylum seekers by the Department of Home Affairs;
  • Instead of improving services, the Department appears to be denying and ceasing all services to newcomers in several provinces.
  • We are shocked that they have been unwilling to find another venue in which to serve immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the Western Cape.
  • We believe that the Department of Home Affairs plans to permanently close  the Refugee Reception Centre in the Western Cape thereby denying all services to asylum seekers in this province.
  • Without consulting civil society, and without due process, the Department has stated it will close all refugee reception centres in the country, except those at the border thereby denying about 400,000 people the services they are entitled to and so desperately need.


Tomorrow law abiding asylum seekers and immigrants are protesting because they desire to be follow the law; they wish to be given the opportunity to fulfill their legal obligation to apply for asylum.  We are outraged by the actions- past, present and future plans- of the Department of Home Affairs, and we cannot sit in silence over these egregious human rights violations.  We hope you will join us in solidarity and in protest, standing alongside our African Brothers and Sisters, to unite as one voice calling for the Department of Home Affairs to serve ALL people as EQUAL under the law.

For Information, Please Contact:

Koko Guylian 078 5029 626

Langton Miriyoga 084 0269 658

Candlelight Vigil to Honour Victims of Xenophobic Violence


PRESS STATEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Vigil in Memory of those Injured and Killed  in the Xenophobic Violence of May 2008


In May 2008, 62 people were killed and 670 injured in the xenophobic violence that broke out in South Africa. On Tuesday May 22 we invite members of the South African and refugee communities affected by this violence, local leaders and as well as members of non-government organizations- to honour the victims of this xenophobic violence in a candlelight vigil at The Slavery Tree, from 6:00 to 830 pm.  We believe that in the Western Cape this is the most suitable place for us to recognize the injustices of 2008.

We will light 732 candles, one for each person killed or injured in these attacks, to remember our fallen brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and grandparents. These candles will serve as a visual reminder to all that we must unite and create a culture of inclusion in order to prevent this widespread violence from happening again. These candles will also serve to encourage us to never again let hate spread throughout our communities.

Before the lighting of candles and the vigil we will listen to voices of some of those who were displaced followed by input from civil society and leaders present followed by a panel discussion. This panel discussion will take place at The Idasa House, 6 Spin Street.

We will come together, spreading messages of unity and love, celebrating our differences and our diversities in our united battle to overcome xenophobia and xenophobic violence.

For comment:

Braam Hanekom (PASSOP) 084 319 1764

Miranda Madikane  (Scalibrini Centre) 083 380 3572

Fatima Swats  (Healing of Memories) 083 462 0607

 

Remittances research featured on CNBC

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The PASSOP research report on remittance flows from South Africa to Zimbabwe, ‘Strangling the Lifeline’, has made headlines since it was launched last week. The author of the report, our Programme Coordinator David von Burgsdorff, was interviewed on CNBC Africa’s Beyond Borders show on Wednesday evening – the full interview can be viewed here.   The findings of the report were also featured in numerous other articles, ranging from Bloomberg News, The Business Day, UK-based SW-Radio Africa, to SABC.

We are happy that the findings have been widely disbursed and have raised awareness around this important issue. Indeed, remittances flows from South Africa to bordering countries is an area where there is huge potential for improvement in policy-making. The impact of more forward looking policies that leverage these remittance flows would surely be substantial for poverty alleviation and development in Zimbabwe and other neighbouring countries.  We will keep pushing for the recommendations we have put forward to be translated into reality.

Protest: Serve us, don’t beat and deport us!

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Press statement for immediate release: 

‘Serve us, don’t beat and deport us’

PASSOP will be joining hands with Asylum seekers tomorrow and protesting against the use of violence by government contracted staff. While we cautiously welcome some of the latest undertakings made by South African Department of Home Affairs, we feel that much more needs to be done.

The protest will be held at the Cape Town Maitland Refugee Reception Office tomorrow,  Friday 13th of May, from 10:30 to 12:00

The protest dubbed ‘serve us, don’t beat and deport us’, aims to exert pressure on the Department of Home Affairs to further improve its services to refugees and asylum seekers.  Our protest has been provoked by the horrific treatment of asylum seekers in at the Refugee Reception Office in Marabastad and the on-going violent treatment at refugee reception centres across the country. While acknowledging the undertakings made today at the weekly media briefing by Home Affairs Director-General Mkuseli Apleni, we want those who authorized the use of sjamboks on queues and those who assaulted asylum seekers to be held accountable. 

Our protest comes at a time when there are mounting problems at the refugee reception centres including poor service, delays in the issuing of documents, frequent “running out of paper and forms”, poor queuing conditions and prohibitive policies and practices among other factors which inhibit the documentation of immigrants. In light of the many problems at the Refugee Reception Offices including the Cape Town Refugee Reception Centre and other parts of the country, we will also express our concern about the resumption of deportation of immigrants by the South African government at this point in time. We remain steadfast in opposing the inhumane practice of deportation without giving immigrants in the country adequate opportunity to be documented.

We believe deportations will not stop the influx of immigrants into South Africa, but are rather a waste of taxpayers’ money. Instead of deporting people, our desire is to see the Department of Home Affairs making efforts to create an environment conducive for the documentation of immigrants.

For comment, please contact, Langton Miriyoga on 084 026 9658 or Braam Hanekom 0843191764


‘Strangling the Lifeline’ – PASSOP Report on Remittance flows from SA to Zimbabwe

Featured

PRESS STATEMENT

Cost of sending remittances from South Africa amongst highest in the world.  Between 70-80 per cent of the ZAR 5.1-6.8 billion (US$ 680-900 million) estimated to have been remitted in 2011 was sent through informal channels.

These and other findings of a new PASSOP Report on remittances to be submitted to the South African Reserve Bank and the Department of International Development and Cooperation.

A new research report by PASSOP, “Strangling the Lifeline – An analysis of remittance flows from South Africa to Zimbabwe”, has found that 91% of Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa send money home regularly (these transfers are called remittances). The report, based on interviews with 350 Zimbabwean migrants – the largest sample size on the issue in the last five years – also found that the average amount remitted by migrants was almost a third of their monthly income. Taking into account that an estimated 1.5 – 2 million Zimbabweans have emigrated to South Africa over the past decade, the report estimates that ZAR 5.1-6.8 billion ($700-850 million) were remitted in 2011, making remittances one of the most important sources of foreign currency inflows for Zimbabwe. Remittances are relied on to sustain the livelihoods of up two-thirds of Zimbabwe’s remaining population. South Africa’s renewed practice of mass deportations is therefore a serious threat to the livelihoods of thousands of families in Zimbabwe who are dependent on remittances, the report goes on to argue.

Another interesting finding of the research report is that roughly three quarters of migrants prefer using informal channels (bus drivers, friends, etc.) to remit money, rather than formal channels (banks or money transfer operators such as MoneyGram or Westsern Union), despite the lack of reliability and inefficiency of informal channels. These informal flows are unrecorded, and therefore the size of remittances flows has been hardly known and scarcely reported on in the past.

Perhaps the most surprising finding detailed in the report is that despite the proximity of Zimbabwe, and despite the large market that exists for remittances, the cost of sending remittances from South Africa to Zimbabwe is amongst the highest in the world. The average cost was found to be 12-15% of the amount remitted – the costs in comparable corridors, such as Mexico-US are much lower, at 3-5%. The implication of this is that the amount of money that actually reaches families in Zimbabwe, and hence the impact it has on poverty reduction and development, is much lower than it could be.

If the development gains for Zimbabwe are to be maximised then the ‘formalization of remittance flows’ must be fostered through the implementation of a number of key reforms. The report cites a list of recommendations to reduce inefficiencies, bring down costs and improve accessibility of formal channels, as well as facilitating flows and leveraging their development impact by providing the appropriate channels, financial education and effective incentives to migrants.

Perhaps contrary to initial impression, the report argues, it is in the interest of the South African government to facilitate the formalization of remittance flows. Rather than increasing the volume of flows, the effect would be to make flows more transparent and to increase the liquidity and efficiency of the financial sector in South Africa. Thus, remittances from South Africa to Zimbabwe represent a huge source of untapped potential for development on both sides of the border that is currently being mitigated by high transfer costs and impeded by stringent and inefficient regulations.

If the formalization of remittance flows is pursued comprehensively, remittances could realise their potential and play an invaluable role in the reconstruction of the Zimbabwean economy. This, in turn, is the only way to address the high currently high level of Zimbabwean migration to South Africa.

The full report will be published at a launch in Cape Town (Idasa House, 6 Spin Street) tomorrow, Wednesday April 11th at 11AM. The author of the report, David von Burgsdorff, will be joined on the panel by Professor Brian Raftopoulos and Mr. Braam Hanekom. Members of the media are invited to attend. The full report is available here.

For more information or comments contact:  David von Burgsdorff (Programme Coordinator) 074 660 2583

Immigrants march to Parliament in protest to demand papers

Around 150 PASSOP members, immigrants, asylum seekers and activists yesterday marched to Parliament to express their desire to get documented.

There is a common misconception that ‘illegal’ immigrants choose not to be documented. In the eyes of many, their alleged defiance of the rules justifies that they should be deported. This misconception also spawns the widespread anti-immigrant sentiments.

In fact, the vast majority of immigrants in South Africa want to be documented – the Department of Home Affairs just makes it extremely difficult for them to do just that.

At a time in which immigration raids have begun all over the country, and tensions in many communities have been on the rise, the march yesterday was meant to highlight this important issue.

The assembled immigrants expressed their frustration that they are viewed as ‘illegal foreigners’ that ‘choose not to be abide by the laws’. As one protester put it: “I am an immigrant without documents – even though I have tried and tried to get documented. I am not a thief, I am not a criminal, and I am tired of being treated like one. ”

Another added “I am teacher, with 20 years of experience in Zimbabwe, and here, I am not allowed to work. There are thousands of schools in South Africa that don’t have enough teachers, and still, they don’t let us work. Why?”

It is no exaggeration to say that South Africa currently no policy in place that acknowledges the reality of migration in Southern Africa. The only people who are able to attain work permits are those holding PhDs or other advanced qualifications. Everyone else, from teachers to nurses to farm workers, are left out.

South Africa can gain a tremendous amount by giving these immigrants a chance to work legally, including much-needed skills transfers, productivity growth and increased economic output, to name just a few.

Instead of doing this, South Africa’s policies in the past and at present have given most migrants no other option but to be undocumented. Such a policy is short-sighted and unhelpful, because it only increases migrants’ dependence on state resources and deprives South Africa of the huge developmental potential that migration presents.

The bottom line is that migration is a reality that is here to stay. It can either be dealt with in a reactionary way or it can be strategically managed to maximize its development potential for both South Africa and its regional partners. The government no doubt needs to move from the former to the latter.

Immigration policies need to move from being exclusive and reactionary to being inclusive, progressive and, most importantly, acknowledge the realities on the ground. Only in this way will South Africa be able to reap the development potential of migration and live up to its regional responsibilities.

PASSOP aims to work hard to stimulate constructive debate around these issues and advocate for these changes in the coming months leading up to the ANC Conference in Mangaung in July.

Opinion piece written by PASSOP Programme Coordinator, David von Burgsdorff. 

Refugee Stories: Roy from Uganda

I didn’t know I was gay when I was younger; I just knew that I wasn’t attracted to girls. In Kampala, nobody mentioned homosexuality; growing up, I never met anyone who was openly gay. You only heard about it on the radio, distantly, in passing.

“Why can’t they leave this country?” callers asked when the topic was raised. “Find an island for them!”

At 19, I went to university and met a man — the first person I wanted to be with. He told me that we could be partners, but only in secret because homosexuality is illegal in Uganda.

After I finished my advanced degree in accounting, I moved to the city with gay friends I’d met at school. We all loved fashion and talked about cute guys. But we were only fully honest with each other. Of course, we couldn’t completely hide who we were; people suspected us of being gay. The way they looked at us – we knew they’d beat us if they found us in a dark corner. In some areas, strangers threw stones or boiling water. They shouted, “We hate you, and next time we’ll hurt you!” Certain shopkeepers wouldn’t serve us.

Still, we were young and starting out our lives. Our community was small and secret, but close-knit. I got a good job as a waiter at a Muslim luxury hotel. Everyone knew I was an excellent server, but eventually, rumors about my sexuality began to circulate.

“Are you a gay?” a co-worker asked.

“Anyone could be gay for all we know,” I said. “Even you.”

Soon enough, they fired me. It hurt me terribly to be dismissed from work I’d done so well, but I didn’t know that worse days were ahead.

I got a new job at another restaurant. With my pay, I went shopping and met a sweet, handsome salesman. He told me that we could start dating – but first, he began to ask me for money. I always gave him something, and he always disappeared. We never slept together.

One Monday, my day off, he called me.

“Are you at home?” he asked. “Can I come by?”

I had a weird feeling on that call. My heart weakened. I didn’t want to see him. But I ignored it and told him to stop in.

He arrived and before I could offer him a drink, he stripped off his pants and shirt. My shirt was already off because it had been scorching hot. I heard banging at the door. I thought it was the houseboy who did some errands for me, so I opened it. And my breath left me.

Six men stood there: one with a gun, one with a video camera, and one with a machete. I turned to the guy I’d been seeing. He had set me up.

Before I knew what was happening, I began to fight them, but it was seven against one. They pushed in, and the man with the machete slashed me, cutting me from shoulder to armpit on each arm. I began to bleed, so much blood.

Roy shows one of his scars

“I’ll cut off your arms,” he said.

I knew of this gang: They had killed one gay man before and brutally beaten another. They had robbed them and blackmailed one with a video.

“I’ll give you all my money,” I said. “Let me live.”

They wrapped my wounds in rags, and took me to the ATM. I drained my account for them. They left me bleeding on the street in the sun.

My friends found me and took me to a hospital. My kind boss gave me a month off, since I couldn’t lift my arms to carry a tray.

The physical pain was terrible, but the fear was worse. I believed the men would come back, push into my house, and kill me. I began working the dinner shift again. Scared of the night, I hired a special taxi to take me home. I could not sleep. I was isolated. Uganda was no place for me.

I found a tourism conference in Port Elizabeth online. I registered and paid the conference fee with money I made from selling all my belongings. With the conference invitation, I applied for a tourist visa. I never planned to attend the conference; I just needed to get to South Africa.

With my visa in hand, I bought a one-way bus ticket and left Uganda. I knew it would be forever. We passed overland for a week. I was tired, lonely. I watched Zimbabwe and Zambia go by, my mind on the past.

I entered South Africa on New Year’s Eve 2009. On January 1, 2010, I traveled from Johannesburg to Cape Town. I saw this beautiful city from the distance and I thought, “This is where I’m supposed to be.”

I’ve been here for over two years now, living with gay refugee friends. It hasn’t been easy. I work three days a week at a small shop but I’ve had trouble getting a job because I only have temporary asylum, which I renew every six months. I need to get permanent papers to get proper work so I’ve come to PASSOP for help.

I dream of my perfect life here in South Africa. I want to get a job in accounting or marketing because I’m a trained professional and I have degrees. I feel so useless now; I want to have a purpose and contribute to something. I’d like to be a citizen. I’d like to have a partner one day. And if I could get enough money, I would buy a lovely house on the beach.

But even now, with all the struggles, this is the only place for me. When I got those injuries, I thought my life might be over. But I have a new life here now, and some rights, and I am fear-free. That’s why I must stay in South Africa; I simply have no other option.

If you want to help Roy, please contact us at office@passop.co.za or (0027) 021 762 0322.

(Roy’s story was compiled and written by PASSOP volunteer Justine van der Leun.)

Refugee Stories: Moses Chikwanda

For three hours after my boss shot me, I lay in the leaves, hidden by trees, waiting for help. I didn’t ask questions. I still don’t know how I got to this place.

I came to Cape Town from Harare. My mother died when I was a baby. By 13, I was pulled from school because my father couldn’t pay the fees. I traveled alone to Wedza, an isolated rural community, where I herded cattle. At 15, I had saved up enough money to return to Harare. My father had remarried and was living with his wife in a small hut, so I moved in with a childhood friend.

We lived in a one-room shack balanced on concrete bricks, our cots pushed together. A strong rain could push the structure over. I cleaned houses once a week, earning just enough to buy bread and mealie-meal. Some days, I was hungry. There was so little work in Zimbabwe.

People returned from abroad, saying that life was better in South Africa. For six months, I saved R1500 to pay smugglers. On a hot summer day in 2009, two men drove me and seven others to the border. I was 18 years old.

For six hours, our small group, led by a smuggler, walked on a dense path through the bush. We spoke about everyday things but the fear was there: fear of crocodiles in the river, of the police, and of guma gumas — criminals who hide, waiting to rob and rape refugees. We prayed. And then we crossed the high river and made it to South Africa. The South African police stopped us once, but all they wanted was a small bribe. Relieved, we continued on our way.

In Cape Town, a Zimbabwean lady kept me well for four days and told me about a job on a farm. I was hired to feed pigs for R1400 a month. The work was tiring – those pigs never stop eating – but I was content. I lived in my own room for the first time ever, with my Chelsea football poster on the wall. On my days off, I went to the local shopping mall. I met my girlfriend there. I had freedom and food. Over time, I saved 1000 rand and bought myself the first nice item I’d ever had: a home theatre sound system. I put it in my room.

But my boss expected us to live without luxuries, low to the ground. He saw my system and grew convinced that I had stolen his pigs and profited. No matter that I had in fact saved a portion of my paycheck for months – he became increasingly paranoid.

One payday in December, my co-workers told me that the boss didn’t want to give me my money. He was drunk, and it was his birthday. They said that he had been muttering, “I’m turning 50 today, so I can kill Moses without consequence.” But this behaviour was normal: Every payday, he got drunk and yelled. We ignored his fits; we thought he was harmless.

I did not think he’d really hurt me.

I knocked on his door late in the afternoon. He answered — his shirt off, his eyes wild.

“You’re taking me for a fool,” he said, and walked away.

I figured he was getting my money, but when he returned, he was holding a pistol.

He was a giant of a man; before I could flee, he grabbed me. I slipped away and began to run. I heard one shot ring out and kept going. Then I reached a barbed wire fence that I couldn’t cross. Another shot sounded out and I felt a ball of fire enter my TK leg just above my ankle. I looked down; blood trailed behind me. My leg gave out. I began to crawl, pulling myself beneath the fence. I soon felt weak. I crawled into the leaves behind a fallen tree and passed out.

An hour later, I woke to the sounds of my boss’ car roaming the property. I couldn’t breathe. Once he passed, I waved my hands until my co-workers, in the distance, noticed me and crept over with food and a jacket. I asked them to call my close friend who lived in town; I knew he would help me. Then I lay in the brush. I did not lose hope. I did not think too much.

My friend, afraid of also being shot, brought the police. He had been denied help at one police station and sent to another, so the ambulance and officers arrived in the evening. The paramedics found me in the leaves, dressed the wound, and took me in the ambulance to the boss’ house. There, the police took a statement.

“He stole our pigs,” the boss’ wife said.

The police asked me if it was true. I could only deny it.

For 46 days, I was shuffled between different hospitals. Skin from my thigh was grafted to my blown-open calf. The pain was unrelenting.

My boss was arrested for a single night and then released. His life resumed, as far as I know.

Once I could move on my own, I found work feeding sheep, but I my calf ached when I walked. So I picked up odd jobs, cutting grapes and cleaning. But what once was simple is now agonizing. I cannot stand or walk long distances. In my dreams, I would have liked to be a doctor. Now, I wish that I could simply learn to drive and get a license so that I could operate a taxi. But lessons and tests cost money, and I only make enough to buy food. When I can, I stand by the robots in the mornings, hoping to be picked up for labour.

Every day, I think of this farmer who shot me, living as though nothing has happened. I was scared to go to the police because I have no passport and know little about the law. But a friend told me about PASSOP, and I came here. Together, we’re working on my case, bit by bit. The authorities are slow and dismiss me, but I am patient. I want justice. I must believe that I will get justice.

If you want to help Moses, please contact us at office@passop.co.za or (0027) 021 7620322.

(Moses’s story was written by PASSOP volunteer Justine van der Leun. )

Press Statement: PASSOP welcomes sentencing of the men convicted of murdering lesbian

Press Statement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PASSOP welcomes the sentencing to 18 years in prison of the men found guilty of murdering lesbian Zoliswa Nkonyana.

The court in Khayelitsha has sent a strong message by finding that the men who killed Ms. Nkonyana did so because she was living openly as a lesbian and that this warranted the harshest penalty. The message is that such hate crimes and blatant homophobia will not be tolerated in South Africa.

We hope that this message is heard loud and clear across the rest of the continent, where homophobic discrimination is widespread and where homosexuality is a crime. Our new project works to assist and advocate for the rights of gay and lesbian refugees who have been forced to flee their home countries and are seeking refuge in South Africa.

Although in many parts of South African society homophobia is still prevalent, today we are proud that South Africa’s legal system has upheld our Constitution and has set an example to the rest of Africa to follow.

We commend the efforts of the all activists and civil society organisations who have been fighting for this day.

For comment or more information, contact:

David von Burgsdorff (0746602583) or Junior Mayema (0736884811)

Press Statement: Asylum seeker beaten by security guards at Refugee Reception Center and denied right to lay charges by Maitland Police Station

Press Statement

For Immediate Release

PASSOP shocked that Maitland police station refused to allow assaulted asylum seeker his right to lay charges against Home Affairs security guards.

We were extremely concerned to observe the assault of Zimbabwean asylum-seeker Mr Lucky Dube by security guards at the

Maitland refugee reception centre yesterday morning. A crowd of people witnessed Mr Dube being beaten by three security guards and punched in the face until he was bleeding from a cut on his head. He collapsed (fainted) and was taken to hospital by ambulance.

We were later informed that after he left the hospital the Maitland police denied him his right to lay charges against the perpetrators. The police on duty told Mr Dube that ‘because he had not left the centre when told to by the security guards, he had no right to lay assault charges’. While in fact he was legally bound to present himself at refugee reception centre to resolve his documentation situation.

In response, PASSOP this morning sent our head paralegal officer, Mr Langton Miriyoga, to assist Mr. Dube to lay charges against the security guards who assaulted him. Although he was escorted by Mr Miriyoga, the police again refused to allow Mr Lucky Dube his right to lay charges. Their excuse for this was because his documents had expired – the very reason he was at the refugee centre where he was assaulted.

Refusing the right to access justice is unconstitutional. The Maitland Police’s actions were unlawful and they are acting as if they were in collusion with the perpetrators at the Refugee Reception Centre.

The case of Mr. Dube is just one of the examples of the type of injustices that refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants have to suffer in the face of SAPS officers who are xenophobic, or at best, apathetic to the plight of non-nationals.

We have written to national Minister of Police and will be lodging complaints with both the ICD and the Human Rights Commission. We will also be engaging our legal partners to ensure that Mr Dube will get his right to lay charges against those who assaulted him. We have already been assured that Mr Dube will be assisted by Home Affairs on Monday and we will accompany him to ensure that he is safe.

For comment, please contact:

Langton Myriyoga (0840269658) or David von Burgsdorff (0746602583) Mr. Dube is willing to speak to media – his number is available on request.