Gautengers open arms to displaced foreigners

Resource type: News

The Star (South Africa) |

by BONILE NGQIYAZA

The African Development Forum has succeeded in reintegrating more than a thousand displaced migrants into communities since Gauteng’s last refugee camps closed in October.

Ivory Park, Tsakane’s Extension 10, and Alexandra, north-east of Joburg, which were flashpoints during the xenophobic attacks, are some of the areas where foreign migrants have been taken back by their communities.

“If there is denial, then it’s hindering help,” said Amir Sheikh (29), of the African Development Forum, which had been at the forefront of the reintegration.

Sheikh said other accommodation had to be sought for those displaced people whose communities in the Ramaphosa informal settlement in Germiston and other areas in Ekurhuleni did not welcome them back.

Inner-city areas like Hillbrow, Berea, Yeoville, Bertrams and Bez Valley were recipients of the displacees, according to Sheikh.

“Some of those displaced, who didn’t get any monetary assistance from the Jesuit Refugee Services or Unicef (the UN children’s fund), and who had no help with reintegration, were assisted with monthly rental and food parcels, after new homes were identified for them with the assistance of the Red Cross in Germiston as well as with the sponsorship of The Star,” said Sheikh.

He said the forum, with the help of Lawyers for Human Rights, had assisted 37 individual immigrants detained at the Lindela Repatriation Centre, who were taken to a church in Bertrams, after which they were reintegrated into the Bertrams community.

Sheikh said there were amazing stories where displaced migrants had their shacks burnt or destroyed, but locals were willing to accept the people back.

When there were problems rebuilding the shacks, the Gauteng provincial government and the local municipality had assisted with the rebuilding in places like Somali Park in Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni, and in Tsakane’s Extension 10.

When people were being repatriated, the forum considered the situation in their country of origin as well as country of residence, so that people’s lives were not placed in jeopardy. In some cases, displaced people were transported to their country of origin by air and land.

Sheikh’s reckoning is that the people most affected by xenophobic attacks were from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi and Rwanda.