Africa Unite, in partnership with Crystal Horizon Youth Centre, hosted a world refugee day event entitled “Young Refugees in South Africa Facing the Future” on the 4th of July in Cape Town.
The main objectives of the event was to invite young refugees from various nations to engage in dialogue with fellow peers to explore common challenges and identify strategies to promote the rights of young refugees living in South Africa.
49 young refugees from the following 9 countries—Somalia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Nigeria, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Uganda, including South Africa—were present at the event.
Opening remarks were given by
Mr. Patrick Kawuma, the Head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Cape Town.
Mr. Patrick thanked the organizers of the event and gave a few recommendations of which he hopes to see following this dialogue:
• More youth refugees and South Africans working together to achieve social cohesion
• Influence of policies affecting refugee life, such as the current ‘Licensing of Businesses’ Bill in Parliament
Mr. Kawuma gave his full support to future developments of this initiative that may promote the rights of refugees living in South Africa.
Furthermore, the event included testimonials from refugees who have overcome many hardships in South Africa and resiliently found ways to achieve their dreams. The special guests were:
• Mr Jamala Safari from DRC currently the Head of Bursary Department at HCI Foundation Head
• Mr Vivence Kalitanyi from Rwanda—
Senior Lecturer at Cape Peninsula University of Technology
• Dr. Justin Munyakazifrom DRC—Senior Lecturer of Mathematics at University of Western Cape
• Mr JMV Nkurunziza from Burundi—Manager at Sonke Gender Justice
• Mr Marthias MuLumba and Ms Gloria Kalenga—Young refugee scholars from Uganda and DRC respectively studying at CPUT and Cape Town College. They spoke about current challenges and goals as they face the future.
All the above speakers used their testimonies to encourage fellow young refugees to focus on their dreams, create a sense of solidarity amongst them, and use their unique gifts to overcome their challenges.
Following the testimonials and interactive panelist discussion, some common challenges identified by the youth participants were as follows:
• In transit of new identity—no sense of belonging
• Xenophobic stigmas directed toward them often accompanied by violence becoming daily occurrences
• Limited or no access to higher education
• Challenges with receiving documentation followed by lack of legitimacy and recognition once proper documentations are acquired (i.e. universities, banks, hospitals, and other public services)
• Lack of fundamental resources and opportunities for professional development
• Gangs, HIV/AIDS, & Drug Use due to peer pressures and desires to integrate—perpetuated by lack of belonging, identity, and support
• Lack of proper orientation into South African society which further delineates challenges of marginalization
After a fruitful dialogue, the youth made some recommendations on how to address the stated challenges.
Below are the recommendations:
o Creation of a platform in which refugees and local youth from the Cape Flat region can meet and share common challenges, and ideas for future development
Objectives of the platform:
• Identify and implement durable, human-rights-based solutions for the empowerment of Cape Flat youth
• Develop an active youth led advocacy group for the interest of the local youth and refugees
• Understand and address the challenges of refugee youth by engaging in thorough community assessments, and human rights awareness initiatives
The platform will:
o Include an advocacy group to promote social cohesion amongst Cape Flat youth by combating drugs, alcohol, gang violence, and xenophobic stigmas
o Utilize social media networks to further empower and advocate for efforts of youth platform
o Create an Internship and Mentorship Program in efforts to enhance the professional skillset of refugee youth in Cape Town
o Create an advocacy group which will try to influence policies for the interests of young people at different levels of government, civil society, and international organizations
eg. Councilors, religious leaders, traditional leaders, local municipalities, Parliament, National government
o In order to follow up with these recommendations, an interim committee of 7 young refugees and local youth from Cape Flats was formed and they will work closely with Africa Unite and other stake holders.
Africa Unite agreed to provide a meeting room for the interim committee which will be meeting at least once a month to make a follow up on the implementation of the recommendations.
It was with the vigilance, determination, and resilient spirits of the youth participants that this event ended successfully.
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