Forced to leave & unwanted
This picture (below) captures part of an exhibition at the 2016 Turban Art Fair. These letters were written by people who have been forced to leave their countries to escape war, persecution, natural disasters & other ills.
When we think about the refugee crisis, its easy to talk about Libyans, Syrians & Afghans fleeing their home countries for Europe...and Turkey. Some never make it to the promised land......if they do, many face inhumane conditions on a daily basis. "Why is Europe sending "them" back?" we ask, appalled & disgusted at the europeans.
Meanwhile back in our own yards we have tons of people displaced by war, political & economic upheaval. We don't see them as asylum seekers but other & label them kwerekwere.
Once you get over how difficult it must be to leave one's home….forcibly, in search of safety and a new life, take a moment to appreciate that refugees & asylum seekers are people. People with hopes and dreams beyond just filling the belly.
I read about Ahmed, an 18 year old from South Sudan. Ahmed was denied access to schooling because his papers were suspected to be false & his english "was too good" for him to be from "Africa".....this happened here in South Africa. There's also Felicity, a 16 year old young woman whose teachers are impatient with, accusing "them" of "taking up all the space" in "our schools". This is Felicity - "I did not choose to come to this country and I prefer to be back home where I have friends and family”.
I should not have to share Ahmed and Felicity’s stories to validate their struggles. Their humanity should never rest on them being “good immigrants”. That humanity should never be questioned.
We know about the debt that we, South Africans, owe to other African countries for accepting our political refugees pre 94, but we seem to have selective amnesia. Remember African solidarity against apartheid?
We've read reports & statistics about immigrants enhancing job creation through entrepreneurship, statistics about refugees being victims of crime instead of perpetrators of crime…...we know all these things, yet our self hate runs so deep that we fight to make the country attractive for German, French and English youth while killing & raping our Somali, Sudanese and Zimbabwean families.
A report on education rights of asylum seekers and migrants by the Education Rights Project reported:
"...the Department of Home Affairs takes at least 18 months & sometimes as long as 4 years to process an asylum request rather than the 6 month period stated in the 1998 Refugees Act…."
Many undocumented asylum seekers end up in "detention centres" as a result….one of these being Lindela.
Let's talk about the Lindela…..
…it is a detention centre for undocumented migrants in South Africa. The Lindela Repatriation Centre is one of South Africa’s largest facilities for the holding of undocumented migrants. It claims to be compliant with all good governance and lawful criteria - Wikipedia
There has been numerous cases of abuse and inhumane conditions including; unlawfully detaining foreigners in exchange for bribes, health issues and deaths. Lindela is easily the most notorious centre in the country.
As a nation, we have not done enough to protect the rights of African refugees. Our policies, where they exist, are not enforced to ensure safety, security and economic freedom for those who have had to leave their homes behind. All of this brings me back to the issue of the oppressed stepping into the masters’ shoes and becoming the oppressor. This uhuru... that we're a fighting for, will never be if this is how we see ourselves.