On the 30th of March 2019 Africa Unite held its first immigration orientation session at 6 Spin Street Cape Town. This information session was designed in order to raise awareness on the South African socio-political context, cultures and by-laws among immigrants who often become victims or perpetrators of the law. The event attracted more than 45 people that included a few young South Africans and immigrants from other African countries such as Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Burundi and Tanzania.
Three guest speakers were invited that is, i.) Mr Patrick Raolane Provincial Manger of Police and Prison Civil Rights’ Union (POPCRU) ii.) Ms Zanele Figlan who is a Health Inspector at the City of Cape Town and iii.) Mr Fwamba Mukole who a former refugee from DRC and currently a permanent resident and has been living in South Africa for 20 years.
The three speakers covered different topics as follows: In the absence of major general Berry the head of detectives, Mr Pat spoke on some of the crimes committed by immigrants and also some of the innocent immigrants who fall victim of the police. He also recognized that some of the police are not well trained to deal with issues pertaining immigrants such as the different types of identification they need to carry. He also mentioned that one of the challenges is the issue of language that often hinder the police investigations.
Ms Figlan from City of Cape Town covered the by laws regarding health issues. She mentioned that it is critical for all immigrants to be documented as often there are communicable diseases that need to be traced their origins such as malaria to avoid further spread of the diseases. She also highlighted that there are many barriers that render quality health services especially amongst immigrant shop owners such as non-compliance with health standards, language barriers, fear of deportation, lack of knowledge, bad attitude from refugees to officials or vice-versa, overcrowding etc. She also alluded that some of the immigrant shop owners fall victim of the health inspectors who often ask money while these services should be rendered for free. One of the stumbling blocks she highlighted was that improper service delivery is caused by some immigrants who are undocumented and the State does not know the actual number of immigrants its dealing with.
Mr Fwamba shared his own experience and journey as a young refugee where he temporarily stayed in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique before settling in South Africa. He advised the immigrant audience to make an effort to learn local languages, love the host country and not always see yourself as a victim. He also echoed that most immigrants fall victim because often they do not get the right information on different issues.
The three presentations from the speakers raised a lot of questions amongst the participating immigrants such as: general negative attitude of the police towards immigrants: the attitude of the officials from other departments who see refugees as a milking cow for money: home affairs failing to renew documents of immigrants making them undocumented: hospitals always require a proof address whilst many immigrants struggle to have one: the abuse of immigrants in public transport such as trains etc.
After a long fruitful discussion, the following recommendations were made:
- All the immigrants must appreciate the hospitality of South Africa as the host country.
- Immigrants must be informed and do their best to get the right information from the right people.
- In order for them to be integrated easily they must do their best to learn local South African languages, customs and by laws to avoid ongoing conflicts with host communities and different institutions
- The South African government must promote more education about African history and political context in Schools and communities in order to break stereotypes and prejudice which is often the main causes of xenophobic violence
- City of Cape Town Department of Health will conduct a series of information sessions with immigrant shop owners mainly operating in townships in order to raise awareness about the environmental and health issues. Africa Unite will assist to identify the immigrant shop owners.
- Immigrants and locals must work together must work together in order to break the common challenges such as unemployment, poverty, crime etc
- The officials of different government departments dealing directly with immigrants (police, home affairs, health, education etc) must learn at least basic languages (Swahili, French, Portuguese etc) spoken by the majority of the immigrants. Africa Unite is willing to provide these lessons to the authorities
- The Immigration Orientation Program should spread to the other parts of the country and not only Cape Town.
- To avoid ongoing abuse of immigrants in different institutions (police, banks, hospitals, public transport, schools etc) human rights education and the rights of immigrants can be conducted with these institutions, including the different types of documents used by immigrants
- A stakeholder platform needs to be created where different stakeholders such as City of Cape Town, Police, Home Affairs, health, NGOs etc can meet and share information relating to immigrants
All the participants were thankful to Africa Unite for creating such a unique informative platform. They encouraged us to run this initiative more in different areas and provinces because it will assist in integrating and creating a common understanding between locals and immigrants in townships.