Migrant Advocacy Sector Mapping Workshop

On the 26th of July 2022, the Witwatersrand Migration Governance Lab hosted a mapping consultative workshop at 6 Spin Street Cape Town. Representatives from various Cape Town-based organizations came together to discuss and place the promotion of migrants, asylum seekers, and many other vulnerable people’s rights at the forefront of their operations. The following is a list of the civil society organizations that were being represented: Africa Unite, Somali Association of South Africa, UCT South-South Migration Hub, Frame45, Human Rights Media Centre, Red Cross Society, Unity for Tertiary Refugee Students, Scalabrini, Migration Governance Lab, Congolese Civil Society of South Africa, The Public Interest Practice, SAVI, Safeplace International, Umoja Africa, World Wide Women’s Association, SWEAT, Adonis Musati Project, Pachedu, Black Sash, Legal Resources Centre and PASSOP.

This was an opportunity to start a conversation between different groups within the sector, enabling each representative to gain a collaborative insight into the current position of the migrant ecosystem and to identify key areas for potential improvement.

The workshop was attended by 26 representatives from their respective organizations. The intention was to provide insights and strategic advice to the foundation [Porticus] and its civil society partners, including migrant-led organizations and migrant leaders. The workshop provided the opportunity to validate findings from the Migration Governance Lab (MGL) at Wits University’s African Centre for Migration and Society and for the various organizations to work collectively to identify opportunities to strengthen the sector’s work in the years ahead. 

The purpose of the workshop was to understand how different organizations working at different levels and on different activities relating to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, can work together to identify different tools that can be developed to expand rights afforded to these individuals. The key points that underpinned the workshop were the increasingly hostile environment, declining civil society support and political faith, and the debates over voice and representation for migrants. 

The first session of the workshop started with presentations from Dr. Landau who is a Research Professor at the University of Witwatersrand’s African Centre for Migration and Society, Mr. Jacob van Garderen from The Public Interest Practice and Ms. Caroline Kihato from Frame45. During his presentation, Dr. Landau expressed the need to think about what the sector has done in the past 10 or 20 years and examine what can be done differently, he used the issue of xenophobia being at the centre of contemporary South Africa as an example of a matter that should be investigated and attended to with urgency. He further discussed the foundation for the project which includes the recognition of shortcomings, the identification of actors, interests and intersections, along with the identification of new allies. 

Mr. van Garderen presented right after Dr. Landau and the focal part of his project looks at the region at large, and not just South Africa concerning migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Mr. van Garderen mentioned that he recently recognized that there are some existing collaborations in the region for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Another positive aspect is the founding collaboration between judges and courts regarding this matter. He went on to ask that there be a look into the existing opportunities on migration at the SADC level. He concluded his presentation by noting that the main issue that arose from the interviews he conducted was that most people felt the need for more engagement and deliberate initiatives in the region. The overarching point that was brought forward was the need to understand what the sector’s role is and ensuring that the needs of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are being met. 

Ms. Kihato’s presentation pivoted on South Africa’s migrant ecosystem. She provided more information on what the migrant ecosystem is and who the ecosystem is composed of.  The key question she asked was related to how organizations can best work together to improve migrant ecosystems. She spoke on the importance of building coalitions because they will allow for migrants to have more access to opportunities. Ms. Kihato essentially spoke on the need to think more broadly about sector sustainability and the improvement of development outcomes.

She concludes her presentation by speaking on the large distance that exists between villains and the champions on the map, and how there is a need to look at who are the actors on the map that sector can build coalitions with. The group of Allies were identified to be the ones who can be used to build coalitions with.  

The presentations sparked up conversations on a number of matters such as migration policies and the need for involvement in the state activities regarding migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The issue of researchers who work against the rights of migrants. The need for consistency in the energy put in finding solutions for migrant lives of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in order for the plans to be more sustainable. A call to investigate how far the activities can be pushed into a continental comparative study and the possibility of taking from the best practices that have worked and using them in other parts of the region. The competitive funding that exists which ultimately affects the ability to be proactive and more impactful.  

Key Discussions/Outcomes:

Following the introductory presentations from Dr. Landau, Mr. van Garderen, and Ms. Kihato to set the contextual landscape regarding the migrant ecosystem in South Africa, the representatives of the present civil society organizations were split into three groups for a breakout session entitled ‘Validation, correction and direction’. The focus of these breakout groups was to identify the existing challenges faced by organizations within the sector in fulfilling their objective of maximizing the welfare of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Following the identification of such challenges, the three groups suggested varying ways in which we can improve the sector mapping currently being undertaken, as well as improving the operations and efficiencies of the sector. A prominent theme which emerged in these discussions was the need for sector mapping to be conducted on a much more holistic scale.

To maximize its effectiveness, representatives from the organizations emphasized the need for sector mapping to be conducted by assessing the track record of organizations, and analyzing the extent to which their contributions to the cause were positive. These breakout sessions involved many passionate debates, as members constructively criticized each other’s perspectives. In conclusion, this workshop emphasized just how far dialogue can go in finding solutions to the problems which have continuously created obstacles for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the region and beyond. Africa Unite was honored to have hosted the workshop and been among one of the civil society organizations present at the workshop, which was a great success.

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