The Institute for the Advancement Journalism (IAJ) held the ‘Reporting Race & Migration Conference’ on the 18th and 19th of October 2017.
The conference opened by tackling a variety of important yet sensitive topics such as, migration policies and its impact on refugees and migrants. I was afforded a discussion with Ms Sharon Ekabaram – Human rights Activist and Head of the Refugee and Migrant Rights Project at Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR).
The pertinent question was, do citizen rights take preference before migration rights? As citizens we are subconsciously treating foreign nationals unfairly. Simple example is waiting in a queue at the a clinic with a migrant and thinking that you have preference over someone else because they are from a different country.“The problem is not the human rights laws and policies as they clearly state how we should treat each other. It is mainly how they are enforced” Sharon responded.
Human rights are everyone’s rights as we celebrate democracy in South Africa, therefore everyone, including migrants, are entitled to human rights regardless of their nationality. We need to identity the root of what entitled us to perceive otherwise. How do we as community members respond to particular issues such as, illegal foreign nationals accessing housing and employment targeted for South African citizens, where as so many citizens are homeless and unemployed.
One of the contributing factors are also directed to government officials playing a corrupt hand in them accessing those resources. When it comes to employment it is then the employers neglecting to verify that some of the employees have correct documentation or then employ them with the intention of paying them salaries that are less than what they would pay a citizen. Employers also have responsibility to ensure that they employ the foreign nationals who have correct documentation.
“Employers who illegally employ foreign nationals without authorisation to live and work in South Africa are being targeted for prosecution under the Immigration Act,” Sharon explained. Sharon then added that the largest problem in our communities is that we are less educated about human rights and policies and the responsibilities their carry. Community members should create a constructive environment to engage one another in a manner that serves the purpose of human rights. We should all respect one other regardless of one another race or nationality. – By Palesa Morake