Refugee Digest 61: Refugee, Migrants and Displaced Persons by Peter-John Pearson
Over the past few weeks, several events have taken place in South Africa (SA) which are all unfortunate for displaced communities here. In the November local elections, a number of new parties which have called for restrictions on migrants and produced narratives blaming various social pathologies on immigrant groups, playing into populist and xenophobic attitudes, gained considerable support at the polls. There has also been a spike in xenophobic public comments from various actors in civil society, groups seemingly different from the formal political parties. Amongst the targets of these insidious public utterances are foreign long-haul truck drivers. Thirdly, the SA government has announced that the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP), which for more than a decade allowed around 200 000 Zimbabweans to live and work legally in SA, will not be renewed when they expire on 31st December. This is a retrogressive step and will simply force tens of thousands of migrants underground and complicate border management policies. Each of these strands, woven together, paints a dire picture for vulnerable migrants and refugees and their protection in this country. While this was happening in SA, the death of 27 migrants crossing the English Channel, and the situation of refugees and migrants on the border of Belarus and Poland, has highlighted the levels of desperation of mobile people across the globe. This Digest provides some primary links to all of the above concerns.