Migration is a complex topic that Africa Unite has proudly accepted the responsibility of attempting to understand and make strides to end. The discussion of migration, xenophobia and Afrophobia in South Africa was brought to the staff and volunteers of the Cape Town write in full YMCA on Thursday, March 15th.
The workshop took place at the Cape Town YMCA and the aim was to discuss more on the rights of migrants and refugees to better equip the YMCA members to serve the youth in their communities. This was the second session of a two-part training in Human Rights.
YMCA staff participated in an array of activities and discussions that helped them to grapple with the magnitude of migration, brainstorm ways that their organization can end violence against migrants and refugees in South Africa and begin to understand the difficulties a refugee or an asylum seeker may face.
This session began with an activity that allowed the participants to mimic the application experience of a person seeking asylum. The participants were given forms written in Creole to fill out and were given no other instruction but to submit their completed forms to the two Africa Unite representatives at the front of the room. The representatives of Africa Unite were instructed to deny the forms and answer no questions. It was found during reflection of this activity that the participants felt frustrated, excluded, unfairly treated, angry, worthless, hopeless and vulnerable. It was then asked by the facilitators why the participants did not mobilize. Their understanding of mobilization was that it was rebellion or meant to cause havoc. It was explained that the group could mobilize while maintaining respect and dignity.
Next, the group discussed migration, and the reason one may have to migrate. It was a theme that most of the reasons for migration was to flee inequalities or persecution in their own countries. It was noted that this could be part of the reason that people see migration and migrants in a negative light. Some terms of the types of migration were then defined, including temporary, permanent, undocumented and forced migration.
The participants then completed an activity about xenophobia and Afrophobia. The groups broke up to discuss their understanding of the word, why xenophobia exists, and what they can do to end it. Xenophobia was decided to be violence against migrants and refugees including prejudice, physical violence, exclusion, discrimination, exploitation and the withholding of human rights.
The group agreed that xenophobia exists at the hands of ignorance, fear, poor journalism, unemployment, lack of information and migrant vulnerability. The staff then discussed how they, as the YMCA organization, could help end xenophobia/Afrophobia in their community. All groups agreed that human rights workshops were necessary to raise awareness about migration. The staff agreed that education was the cornerstone of promoting social cohesion. On this note, they would like to offer human rights workshops at the YMCA for their youth patrons. In addition to this local level initiative, grander scale interventions were suggested.
Participants then completed an activity to demystify some of the stereotypes surrounding migrants. This consisted of listing South African stereotypes and debunking each of them. This then set the stage to falsify all the generalizations about migrants. The participants were then able to discuss how the generalization and stereotyping of migrants contributes greatly to xenophobia in South Africa.
Finally, we discussed what the participants had felt that they learned. The participants said they had learned that people make grand generalizations and that this is not conducive to promoting human rights. Participants mentioned having learned much more about migration and the different types and definitions. Participants also walked away with an understanding that it is very difficult to be a refugee and that they deserve respect and dignity.