First celebrated in 2016, the Right to Information Day is the youngest of children in a large family of siblings: older brothers and sisters include Human Rights or Woman’s Rights Day and the upcoming International Day of the Girl Child on the 5th of October 2017.
However being the youngest doesn’t imply that the day is of lesser importance. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR, 1948) article 19 already established that the right to freedom of information, and particularly the right of access to information should be provided by all member nations.
With the Access to Information Act of 2000, South Africa joined other countries in assigning official rights to receive and obtain information for South African citizens and those individuals crossing its borders. It marked an important step in history as it stepped away from a (pre-1994) “secretive and unresponsive culture that could lead to an abuse of power and human rights violations”. The government therefore recognizes that freedom of information is vital, and that a South African society cannot flourish if governments operate in secrecy.
Access to information is of critical importance to migrants and refugees in South Africa. Once they have arrived in the host country, information regarding documentation and asylum processes and other services are vital to the realization of their rights and responsibilities. Refugees and migrants often find themselves in countries where they face language barriers and whose media and communication channels are not oriented towards providing them with information.
Ultimately for a variety of reasons migrants and refugees often rely on unreliable sources, like friends and social media. The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town and other organizations provide information to refugees and migrants in South Africa as a core part of their mandates. With many sources providing unreliable information or with many individuals not being able to understand their basic rights the Centre has made a small list which you can scan for credible news:
– Home affairs website: http://www.dha.gov.za/
– Lawyers for Human Rights news: http://www.lhr.org.za/
– Legal Resources Centre news: http://www.lrc.org.za/
Or, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to double check on any news you doubt.
Furthermore on Friday the 29th September the Scalabrini Women’s Platform has an Open Workshop with an Introduction to basic concepts and terms of law and South African refugee law. It was found that many of the clients coming in did not only not know how to access information but were also not aware of what their rights actually are.
There are still some spots available so for those woman who would like to attend please come in tomorrow at 10.00 AM at the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town 47 Commercial Street Capetown.
Written by Amber Ditz
UDHR article 19, PDF version
PRON1OTION OF ACCESS TO INFORMATION ACT, 2000