Vlugtelinge in SA ‘is geregtig op Grondwet se beskerming’

South African President Zuma gestures during a news conference in Pretoria

Kaapstad – Vlugtelinge is geregtig op die volle beskerming wat die Grondwet bied en geniet bykans identiese regte as Suid-Afrikaners.

Só het adv. Jacques du Preez, operasionele bestuurder van die F.W. de Klerk-stigting, gister ge­reageer op onlangse uitlatings deur die ANC-LP me. Maggie Maunye oor buitelanders in Suid-Afrika.

Sy het onder meer ná ’n besoek aan ’n vlugtelingsentrum in Maitland gesê sy wonder “of daar nog enigiemand oor is in Somalië” en ook “hoe lank Suid-Afrika nog die instroming van mense gaan duld”.

Haar uitlatings het veral geskok, aangesien dit skaars ’n dag of twee was nadat twee Somaliërs in Delft vermoor is. Maunye het kort daarna om verskoning gevra.

In ’n ontleding oor die regsposisie van vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika het Du Preez gesê die Grondwet is van toepassing op alle mense wat binne die landsgrense is.

“Hoewel sekere regte (soos om te stem) slegs van toepassing sal wees op sekere groepe mense of begunstigdes, geniet byna almal dieselfde regte, ongeag of hulle Suid-Afrikaanse burgers is.

“Die Grondwet se onderliggende waardes van menswaardigheid, gelykheid, die bevordering van menseregte en vryhede, nie-rassigheid en nie-sekisme is van toepassing op vlugtelinge.

“Wat buitelanders betref, is dit onaanvaarbaar om uitsprake te maak wat kan lei tot die skending van hierdie regte.”

Onlangse studies het gewys werklose Suid-Afrikaners se misnoeë jeens buitelanders wat hulle glo werksgeleenthede kos, is ’n belangrike oorsaak van die mees onlangse xenofobiese aanvalle.

Ander studies het egter volgens Du Preez gewys die meeste buitelanders werk vir hulself.

Volgens hom onderskryf Suid-Afrika die Verenigde Nasies se konvensie oor die status van vlugtelinge en is dus verplig om diegene wat in hul gebied is, te beskerm.

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SGR vier Wêrelddag vir Vlugtelinge

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Tydens die Algemene Vergadering op 4 Desember 2000 het die Verenigde Nasies 20 Junie as Wêrelddag vir Vlugtelinge verklaar, met die doel om bewustheid te skep oor die benarde posisie waarin vlugtelinge hulle bevind en steeds hul eie lande verlaat – nie uit eie keuse nie, maar as gevolg van gewapende konflik en politieke verdrukking.

In die lig van Wêrelddag vir Vlugtelinge wil die Sentrum vir Grondwetlike Regte, in die gees van ons Grondwet, ‘n beroep doen op die regering en alle Suid-Afrikaners om verdraagsaamheid en respek vir fundamentele regte, soos vervat is in ons Handves van Menseregte, na te streef en te vestig.

Suid-Afrika het beide die Konvensie met Betrekking tot die Status van Vlugtelinge van 1951 en die aanvullende Protokol met Betrekking tot die Status van Vlugtelinge van 1967 onderteken ná sy toetreding in 1996. Hierdie internasionale instrumente gee uitvoering aan artikel 14 van die Universele Verklaring van Menseregte van 1948 deur die internasionale wetlike raamwerk te skep vir die beskerming van vlugtelinge deur, onder andere, die reg van persone te erken om om asiel aansoek te doen teen vervolging in ander lande, die term “vlugteling” te definieer, die regte van vlugtelinge te bepaal en deur die wetlike verpligtinge van die lande wat as partye toegetree het, uiteen te sit. Die Konvensie maak ook voorsiening vir die instelling van minimum standaarde vir die behandeling van vlugtelinge. Die Konvensie is egter nie van toepassing op individue teen wie daar ernstige besware is nie – indien hulle oorlogsmisdade, misdade teen die mensdom, ernstige nie-politieke oortredings begaan het, of skuldig is aan dade wat strydig is met die doelwitte en beginsels van die Verenigde Nasies. Daar is geen rede of regverdiging om vlugtelingstatus te verleen aan laasgenoemde individue nie.

Wat ons Grondwet betref, is Suid-Afrika deur sy internasionale verpligtinge verbind – insluitend verpligtinge in terme van die Konvensie met Betrekking tot die Status van Vlugtelinge van 1951 en die daaropvolgende protokol. Die regering het dus ‘n plig om vlugtelinge te ontvang, te beskerm en te behandel op ‘n menslike wyse soos vereis deur die Konvensie vereis word. Daarbenewens beskerm ons Grondwet en die Handves van Menseregte die regte van almal in Suid-Afrika – insluitend vlugtelinge – wat beteken dat almal gelyk is voor die reg en die reg op gelyke beskerming en voordeel van die wet het. Dit beteken natuurlik ook dat almal in Suid-Afrika die wet moet nakom sodra hul in Suid-Afrika is.

Dit is die grondwetlike plig van die regering om die regte van vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika te respekteer, maar dit is inderdaad ook die plig van elke Suid-Afrikaner en elke ander individu wat in Suid-Afrika teenwoordig is om die waardes te bevorder – insluitende verdraagsaamheid en respek – wat onderliggend is aan ‘n oop en demokratiese samelewing wat gebaseer is op menswaardigheid, gelykheid en vryheid. Om die regte wat in ons Grondwet vasgelê is, op te eis, moet ons ook die regte van ander respekteer, of jy nou ‘n gebore Suid-Afrikaner is, of ‘n buitelander wat ons beskerming benodig teen onreg en onmenslikheid.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

Immigration cap loophole sees massive surge

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May walk through Terminal 5 during a visit to UK Border Agency staff at Heathrow Airport

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May walk through Terminal 5 during a visit to UK Border Agency staff at Heathrow Airport

Home Office statistics reveal that the number of foreigners arriving on “intra company transfers” (ICTs), which do not count towards the cap total, rose sharply following the Coalition’s announcement of an interim cap in mid-July.

There were 30 per cent more ICTs handed out in between July and September this year than in the same period last year.

Experts said the increase showed that companies were to continuing to import cheap labour despite the Government’s clampdown, and warned that numbers would continue to rise even after a permanent cap on migrant numbers comes into force next April.

Peter Skyte, of the trade union Unite, said: “It is a massive loophole. Our prediction has always been that the immigration cap would be all smoke and mirrors.”

The ICT scheme allows firms to bring non-EU nationals who are already on their payroll into the UK. It is widely used in the IT industry.

One Indian company alone, Tata Consultancy Services, sponsored 4,600 employees to come to Britain in 2008; another, Infosys Technologies Limited, sponsored 3,235 in the same year.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has said she will fulfil a Tory manifesto pledge by capping the “skilled worker” routes at 21,700 a year, but she agreed to exempt ICTs from the new restrictions following pressure from business leaders and Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Business Secretary.

In the third quarter of this year, as the Home Office was restricting other immigration routes, more than 8,000 foreigners came to work in the UK under ICTs – up from 6,000 in the same period last year.

If the current ICT rate is sustained, more than 32,000 immigrants would arrive under the route each year, meaning the true number of migrant workers would be about 54,000 a year when capped routes and ICTs are added together.

Mr Skyte said Unite feared there were significant loopholes in limits imposed on ICTs by the Home Secretary last week.

Under the terms of the permanent cap, ICT workers earning between £24,000 and £40,000 a year will only allowed to remain in Britain for 12 months.

Mr Skyte said: “We think companies will simply transfer lower-paid staff for 11 months and three weeks, for example, and then they will be sent home for a few weeks and re-apply under a new ICT.

“There doesn’t seem to be anything in the rules to stop it.

“In other words, the number of people coming on ICTs could actually rise.

“The Home Office has also failed to take the chance to prevent companies counting allowances for things like accommodation as part of their gross pay, and it looks like some employers have sought to make as much use of the route as possible while current rules are in place.

“The Government’s announcement has squandered a golden opportunity to tackle abuse and misuse of ICTs.”

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the pressure group MigrationWatch, said: “There is clearly a build-up of ICT applications this year.

“While it is essential that staff who are seriously needed can get into Britain, this route will have to be watched very closely to avoid it becoming a loophole in the whole system of economic migration.”

On the possibility of workers exploiting the 12-month ICT rule, he said: “We have yet to see the details of this scheme but if it allows people permitted to come for a year to go home for a few weeks and return then it will rapidly become absurd.”

One British worker, who declined to be named but is employed in IT by a well-known bank, said: “Employers will find plenty of ways to abuse the system.

“Where I work now there are British workers being made redundant and at the same time ICTs are being brought in to replace them. The Government’s measures have had no effect whatsoever.”

Another IT worker said: “Sadly the IT business in this country is doomed, primarily because they have printed ICTs and other visas like confetti.”

Damian Green, the immigration minister, said: “The new immigration limit clearly sets out which workers we will allow into the UK job market.

“It has been drawn up following extensive consultation with businesses and reflects their views. But our view is clear: we need employers to look first to those who are out of work and already live in this country.

“The limit will allow us to protect those businesses which are vital to our economy, allowing them to attract the best and the brightest, but more importantly it will bring immigration down to sustainable levels.”

In the whole of last year there were 22,030 ICTs but in just the first nine months of this year the figure had already reached 22,520.

The quarterly total of ICTs has crept up incrementally since the beginning of last year, when there were 4,355 applications between January and March.

In comparison, in 1992 there were just 7,000 ICTs handed out during the whole year.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

Xenophobia in South Africa

May 2008 riots

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Spread of violence

On 12 May 2008 a series of riots started in the township of Alexandra (in the north-eastern part of Johannesburg) when locals attacked migrants from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, killing two people and injuring 40 others. Some attackers were reported to have been singing Jacob Zuma‘s campaign song ‘Bring Me My Machine Gun’.

In the following weeks the violence spread, first to other settlements in the Gauteng Province, then to the coastal cities of Durbanand Cape Town.

Attacks were also reported in parts of the Southern Cape, Mpumalanga, the North West and Free State.

Popular opposition to xenophobia

In Khutsong in Gauteng and the various shack settlements governed by Abahlali baseMjondolo in KwaZulu-Natal social movements were able to ensure that there were no violent attacks.

Causes

A report by the Human Sciences Research Council identified four broad causes for the violence:

  • relative deprivation, specifically intense competition for jobs, commodities and housing;
  • group processes, including psychological categorisation processes that are nationalistic rather than superordinate
  • South African exceptionalism, or a feeling of superiority in relation to other Africans; and
  • exclusive citizenship, or a form of nationalism that excludes others.

A subsequent report, Towards Tolerance, Law, and Dignity: Addressing Violence against Foreign Nationals in South Africa, commissioned by the International Organisation for Migration found that poor service delivery or an influx of foreigners may have played a contributing role, but blamed township politics for the attacks. It also found that community leadership was potentially lucrative for unemployed people, and that such leaders organised the attacks. Local leadership could be illegitimate and often violent when emerging from either a political vacuum or fierce competition, the report said, and such leaders enhanced their authority by reinforcing resentment towards foreigners.

Aftermath

1 400 suspects were arrested in connection with the violence. Nine months after the attacks 128 individuals had been convicted and 30 found not guilty in 105 concluded court cases. 208 cases had been withdrawn and 156 were still being heard.

One year after the attacks prosecutors said that 137 people had been convicted, 182 cases had been withdrawn because witnesses or complainants had left the country, 51 cases were underway or ready for trail and 82 had been referred for further investigation.

In May 2009, one year after the attacks the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (Cormsa) said that foreigners remained under threat of violence and that little had been done to address the causes of the attacks. The organisation complained of a lack of accountability for those responsible for public violence, insufficient investigations into the instigators and the lack of a public government inquiry.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

Anti-foreigner violence escalates in South Africa-(South Africans killing Rhodesians)

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The unrest is an embarrassment for South Africa, which has vaunted its tolerance since the end of apartheid and hopes to encourage foreign visitors for the soccer World Cup in 2010.

The violence is an indicator of anger among those who complain they have been left out by Mbeki’s policies to promote business and investment. Investors are already worried by growing labor influence in the ruling ANC since Mbeki lost the leadership in December to rival Jacob Zuma.

ANC Treasurer General Matthews Phosa called at the weekend for an early election, calling for strong leadership. Mbeki has to step down next year and Zuma is the frontrunner to succeed.

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Police officers rescue a seriously injured man who had been attacked, beaten and burned during ongoing xenophobia attacks in Ramaphosa squatter camp east of Johannesburg, South Africa, 19 May 2008. An estimated 20 people have died with hundreds injured and thousands homeless after a week of violence by South Africans against any foreign Africans living in the city.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

Xenophobia in South Africa After 1994

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Violence before May 2008

According to a 1998 Human Rights Watch report immigrants from Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique living in the Alexandra township were “physically assaulted over a period of several weeks in January 1995, as armed gangs identified suspected undocumented migrants and marched them to the police station in an attempt to ‘clean’ the township of foreigners.” The campaign, known as “Buyelekhaya” (go back home), blamed foreigners for crime, unemployment and sexual attacks.

In September 1998 a Mozambican and two Senegalese were thrown out of a train. The assault was carried out by a group returning from a rally that blamed foreigners for unemployment, crime and spreading AIDS.

In 2000 seven foreigners were killed on the Cape Flats over a five-week period in what police described as xenophobic murders possibly motivated by the fear that outsiders would claim property belonging to locals.

In October 2001 residents of the Zandspruit informal settlement gave Zimbabweans 10 days to leave the area. When the foreigners failed to leave voluntarily they were forcefully evicted and their shacks were burned down and looted. Community members said they were angry that Zimbabweans were employed while locals remained jobless and blamed the foreigners for a number of crimes. No injuries were reported among the Zimbabweans.

In the last week of 2005 and first week of 2006 at least four people, including two Zimbabweans, died in the Olievenhoutbosch settlement after foreigners were blamed for the death of a local man. Shacks belonging to foreigners were set alight and locals demanded that police remove all immigrants from the area.

In August 2006 Somali refugees appealed for protection after 21 Somali traders were killed in July of that year and 26 more in August. The immigrants believed the murders to be motivated by xenophobia, although police rejected the assertion of a concerted campaign to drive Somali traders out of townships in the Western Cape.

Attacks on foreign nationals increased markedly in late 2007 and it is believed that there were at least a dozen attacks between January and May 2008. The most severe incidents occurred on 8 January 2008 when two Somali shop owners were murdered in the Eastern Cape towns of Jeffreys Bay and East London and in March 2008 when seven people were killed including Zimbabweans, Pakistanis and a Somali after their shops and shacks were set alight in Atteridgeville near Pretoria.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika