by City Of Johannesburg

World Refugee Day

Migration Services organises international day

Last year, 7.6 million people were newly displaced

This year’s United Nations High Commissions for Refugees’ (UNHCR) theme was: “One Family Torn Apart by War is One Too Many.” 

The event was organised by the City of Johannesburg’s Migration Services in conjunction with the Pastoral Care of the Catholic Archdiocese of Johannesburg, Jesuit Refugee Services and the Bienvenu Shelter. The Roman Catholic Church chose to celebrate the day under the theme: “Migrations: Pilgrimage of Faith and Hope.”

The delivery of former president Thabo Mbeki’s speech, I Am an African, which he gave at the opening of Parliament in 1998, reverberated throughout the church. It was followed by scintillating performances by groups of children from the St Francis Parish, Khanyesa, Bienvenu Shelter, Taryn Foley and and Rwanda Community.

UNHCR Regional Deputy Representative Sergio Calle Norena said of the 45.2 million people uprooted by conflict and violence, 15.4 million became refugees.Norena said war remained the dominant cause of displacement and that the majority of refugees came from five war-torn countries – Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan.He said in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, displacement continued and that peace initiatives were not fruitful. In Colombia, there was, however, a sign of hope for 2.5 million people.
Norena said UNHCR’s global report highlighted worrisome trends. In 2012, about 7.6 million people became newly displaced. More than 1.1 million of them became refugees.

“We recognise that with service delivery challenges in some of the poorest communities in South Africa, many South Africans would question whether this country could afford to receive and accommodate refugees and asylum seekers. The answer is a resounding yes.

“Receiving refugees and asylum seekers is an act of solidarity with victims of conflict, violence and persecution. It is also part of South Africa’s responsibility as a member of the United Nations,” Norena said. He conceded that the asylum system in South Africa was overwhelmed.

However, the Department of Home Affairs was aware of this and was taking steps to address the problem.He said the UNHCR was aware of the backlogs and the structural challenges that made it difficult to deal with numbers of asylum seekers.

Dawood Moosa, Operations Manager of the City of Joburg’s Migration Services said as much as the City was doing its best to help affected communities, it was still confronted by incidences of xenophobia.
He emphasised that his department was always available to offer help and advice to those who are vulnerable and in need.

Executive Director of the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa 
Sicelimpilo Shange Buthane, Executive Director of the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa, urged the refugees to strive to bring about peace in their countries.

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This edition

Issue 68