Permits still a major challenge for refugees

Makusha Hupenyu and Vitalis Vincent Ioryue Cssp of the Durban Refugee Pastoral Care.

DESPITE South Africa being very welcoming to refugees, documentation of refugees still remains the biggest challenge. So says Makusha Hupenyu, co-ordinator at the Durban Refugee Pastoral Care. Refugees are required to have a special permit, which allows them move around the country, get employment, access education and documents all their details. Permits must be renewed every six months.

The Durban Refugee Patoral Care centre is based at the Denis Hurley Centre at the Emmanuel Cathedral and is responsible for handling all matters affecting all foreign nationals in the area of the Archdiocese and beyond. Since its inception in 1999 more than 25 000 refugees and asylum seekers have been assisted.

“South Africa has an urban refugee policy which says come to South Africa, we welcome you, but you have to look after yourself. With documentation being the biggest challenge, it becomes difficult for refugees to look after themselves. You cannot get employment or an education if you are not documented. At a recent meeting that was attended by the Minister of Home Affairs and the Acting Director General, foreign doctorate degree students also mentioned how the issue of documentation makes it difficult for them to travel for research purposes. Xenophobia and other issues are there, but documentation is the main problem,” said Hupenyu.

While the centre’s primary purpose is to offer spiritual support, integration is a primary issue for all who migrate into new places. The Refugee Pastoral Care offers lessons in IsiZulu at no cost to refugees and English classes are given for employment purposes. Through its pastoral discourse shelter, a meal is provided for new arrivals. Learners in primary and secondary schools are also helped with school fees and uniforms. Children who have lost their parents are also offered support.

Makusha Hupenyu is the co-ordinator at the Durban Refugee Pastoral Care.

“We do not discriminate on the basis of religion.We have a full-time chaplin who deals with refugee issues. We provide them with one meal at night because there are a number of soup kitchens in town they can access during the day. We offer them shelter at night, but encourage them to go out during the day and look for employment. The greatest empowerment we can give is education and with education comes transformation,” added Hupenyu.

According to the country’s White Paper for International Migration, the current average of 62,000 asylum applications per annum makes South Africa the highest recipient of individual asylum seekers in Africa. The majority are from Zimbabwe, followed by Ethiopia, DRC and Nigeria. The paper also says that the majority of illegal migrants come from neighboring countries. Of the total number of 369,726 migrants that were deported between January 2012 and December 2016, nationals from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho made up 88 per cent.

Vitalis Vincent Ioryue Cssp is the Director and Chaplin at the Durban Refugee Pastoral Care.

At a dialogue on the management of international migration held at the UKZN Westville Campus last week, Home Affairs Minister Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize said migration issues were highly politicised, and were about power relations among those who were migrating and the receiving countries.

“It’s about the contestation of space and scarce resources. The whole idea is that we have to protect the safety, dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of all immigrants, regardless of their migratory status. We must know what is of national interest. It is important for us to secure our borders. If we don’t, we will end up with a situation where citizens have the impression that the government is failing to control migration,” she said.

“Majority of South Africans are peace loving and caring people. It is just the criminals who take advantage of a situation and blow things out of proportion. We also urge the media to report more positively and we believe their reporting will determine the relations between locals and foreigners. We also want to partner with prospective employers, so that they are not found on the wrong side of the law by employing an undocumented person,” said Vitalis Vincent Ioryue Cssp who is the Director and chaplin at the Durban Refugee Pastoral Care centre.

  AUTHOR
Rudy Nkgadima

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