One of PASSOP’s key priorities is to foster the integration of foreign nationals into South African communities. This can be best achieved by promoting community participation on the part of immigrants, addressing the widespread distrust and lack of information on both sides, and monitoring closely the ongoing xenophobic tensions that continue to be present in townships across the country.
To this end, PASSOP operates anti-xenophobia help desks in a number of townships in the Western Cape, including Masiphumelele and Imizamo Yethu. The recently launched program, funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), aims to:
- Promote integration, understanding, and cooperation between South Africans and foreigners;
- Monitor the townships for xenophobic tensions;
- Create a safe space for reporting both potential and actual instances of xenophobia in all forms;
- Coordinate targeted public anti-xenophobia campaigns; and
- Gather accurate data through community surveys and compile a thorough database.
The help desks, located in the heart of the townships, provide a number of different services to the local communities, including offering:
- Free paralegal advice to all community members regarding:
- labor rights and complaints;
- documentation issues; and
- other community concerns.
- Assistance in drafting professional CVs.
- Other social integration-related activities:
- Educational workshops with different themes;
- Anti-xenophobia information campaigns;
- Cultural events and music performances; and
- Distributing information (newspapers, flyers).
The manner in which the help desk program is implemented ensures that there is community ownership of and involvement in the project. For example, volunteers from the local communities are recruited, trained and employed to help staff the help desks.
The current help desk program is built onto the success of the help desk in De Doorns in 2009-2010. Following the mass displacement of roughly 3,000 Zimbabweans in De Doorns in mid-November 2009, PASSOP set up a help desk there to assist the displaced, as well as local South Africans, by providing paralegal advice on a wide-ranging number of labor complaints and documentation issues. Throughout the five-month lifetime of the project, close to 2,000 people were assisted.
Although the help desks in the township are not running anymore, people can still approach the PASSOP office for support.