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CoRMSA Report Outlines Way Forward Following Xenophobic Attacks

Resource type: News


The recent violence against non-South Africans across the country is not a new phenomenon nor is it likely to end with deaths that shocked South Africa in May. The violence is but the most recent episode in a long history of the exclusion and marginalisation of foreign nationals in South Africa.

That was the central message contained in a report released today by the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), the national network of refugee and migrant service providers. Entitled Protecting Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Immigrants in South Africa and based on six months of research around the country, the report illustrates the way non-nationals have been excluded from many of the services to which they are entitled under South African law – including health care, education, labour rights, and physical security.

The report goes on to argue that there is a false dichotomy between providing rights for foreigners and rights for South African citizens. As the recent violence has made all too clear, the rights of South Africans and non-nationals are interdependent. If South Africa is to create the structures of labour and human rights protection to which it aspires, the rights of everyone in the country must be protected.

Not providing non-nationals with documentation or allowing them to work legally means that the are subject to exploitation and will work under conditions that undermine the minimum labour standards organisations such as COSATU have worked to create. Currently there is insufficient protection of the rights of non-national migrant workers, says Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, of Lawyers for Human Rights. Until such time as government signs the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families or else develops policy around the employment of undocumented migrants, both human rights and labour standards will be severely undermined. Similarly, denying health care or education to migrants puts us all at risk.

The report was compiled after six months of research and outlines some of the key rights issues facing non-nationals. Please feel free to circulate. The report is also available at where you can also find previous newsletters and other information.