Reporting on Migration in South Africa: A Journalist’s Guide

Sonke Gender Justice and Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town have co-authored a new media guide: Reporting on Migration in South Africa: A Guide for Journalists and Editors.

Donatha-An education finally within reach with UpLearn

Donatha’s dream is to give back to her community. To do this, she wants to hold specific qualifications – qualifications that were cut short by a long migration across Africa to Cape Town. Upon arriving, Donatha was determined to continue her university education, and finally found a lucky spot at UpLearn, through the help of a stranger. She dreams of using her HealthCare Management degree to help give back to the community in any way that she can.  

University woes 

For Donatha, the biggest challenge upon arriving in South Africa was not being able to continue her university studies. “I applied for three years to do my postgraduate. I even applied to start my undergraduate all over again, but I couldn’t get the chance.”  

Through a friend, Donatha heard about UpLearn and immediately made her way to ScalabriniLike an army of old ants crawling into familiar holes, her elation quickly turned to heartbreak when she was told that UpLearn was full and were no longer accepting new students. But, thanks to a woman at the train stationit didn’t last. “As I was going back to the train station, I met a wonderful woman – she became my friend – who told me about Women’s Platform. I turned straight around, went back to Scalabrini and registered with Asha to start Personal Development.” 

When I first came to Cape Town I started feeling like an outsider, like I didn’t matter as a human being. Now I feel hopeful, I found my purpose again after such a long time.” 

Pursuing Passions 

After getting into Women’s Platform they really helped me all the way through to the UpLearn programme.” Back in Rwanda, Donatha was a midwife and worked in community outreach. “I worked closely with my community and I loved it.” She chose to do a HealthCare degree through UpLearn as it would enable her to carry on the work that she loved. 

After completing the PD course with Women’s PlatformDonatha became a facilitator herself – while continuing her studies. “Being able to help fellow women was a dream come true – I am all about women empowerment.” Donatha had finally found the space to build her life; personally, professionally and emotionally. “I developed myself in a way that I didn’t know I could.” 

Finding Purpose Again 

“When I got accepted to the UpLearn programme, it saved my life and gave me hope again. It had been a long time that I had been trying to go back to school and I couldn’t do it, but Scalabrini made me whole again.”  

Finding her safe haven has allowed Donatha’s journey to come full circle. “Now I am working at Scalabrini as the Facilities Assistant. I couldn’t have imagined it in a million years.” As the Facilities Assistant, Donatha helps keep the office running smoothly. She sees her position as another opportunity to contribute to hope and change.  

Even though she is working, she has no plans to stop with her education. “I plan to continue my studies and continue to grow and give back to my community – to be able to help change someone’s life like mine has been changed…When I first came to Cape Town I started feeling like an outsider, like I didn’t matter as a human being. Now I feel hopeful, I found my purpose again after such a long time.” 



Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town condemns the changes to the Refugee laws, which came into effect on 1 January 2020, as they undermine South Africa’s Constitution, Bill of Rights, and may be inconsistent with international refugee law.

The new Refugees Regulations, 2018, breathe life into the Refugees Amendment Act of 2017 (the “Amendment Act”), and spell drastic changes to the lives and rights of refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa. The Regulations and the Amendment Act reflect a roll back on the rights and protections afforded to refugees in South Africa, and seats South Africa on the global bandwagon of regressive refugee policies.

Far from fixing the historical challenges in implementation of South Africa’s Refugees Act, these changes create further layers of administrative red-tape to an already-struggling asylum system. They also undermine the principle of non-refoulement and the rights to human dignity, life, freedom and security of the person, as well as other rights protected by our Bill of Rights.

Scalabrini Centre is gravely concerned by the fact that the new refugee laws:

    •    > Expand on reasons for exclusion from asylum or revocation of refugee status;
    •    > Create wholly unrealistic and impractical timeframes which have the potential to exclude significant numbers of asylum seekers of their right to seek asylum in South Africa;
    •    > Potentially undermine the rights of asylum seekers to work and study in South Africa;
    •    >Introduce overly onerous and unrealistic procedures and requirements for those seeking asylum – procedures that will likely exacerbate bureaucratic backlogs;
    •    >Reduce the responsibilities and mechanisms of accountability as well as safeguards in respect of departmental officials responsible for assisting asylum seekers and refugees in South Africa; and
    •    >Provide for detention procedures, which may be unconstitutional.

Many of the new Regulations go beyond what is in the law, and are therefore unlawful and ultra vires. They appear to instruct entities the Department has no power over, to do certain things: for example, sections related to deportation unlawfully override judicial procedure and access to courts.

These drastic and unrealistic changes come despite the fact that various human rights and civil society organisations objected to them, as well as objecting to the Department’s limited time periods for comment on the changes. These inadequate engagement processes undermine public engagement procedures and reduce public participation to a mere tick-box approach on the part of the Department of Home Affairs. This is particularly concerning given the Department’s track record of failing to uphold obligations to genuinely consult with public and persons affected by the Department’s decisions. We urge the Minister to repeal the amendments. Refugee legislation should be aimed at protection of an already vulnerable group. We acknowledge that there have been systemic challenges in the implementation of South Africa’s refugee laws.

These challenges have not been addressed but are largely exacerbated by the new laws. Instead of amending the laws, the Department needs to first address the underlying causes leading to abuse of the system – such as capacity and corruption – and in so doing ensure the integrity and efficiency of the asylum system. For media queries please email:

Sally Gandar:

Lotte Manicom:



The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town has sent a letter to Honorable Minister of Home Affairs, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi. We are calling on the Minister of Home Affairs to urgently and properly communicate with asylum seekers in South Africa about the serious changes in the refugee law in South Africa. The new law states that asylum-seekers whose permits expire for more than one month will be considered to have ‘abandoned’ their asylum claim. We call for the suspension of this provision. However, if DHA implements this, we call on the Department of Home Affairs to urgently communicate on how this will be implemented, and what asylum-seekers in South Africa must do to ensure that their claims are not considered abandoned. In calling for communication, we in no way agree that the provision is lawful.

Please read and share our letter below, calling on Home Affairs to take urgent action.


Peyton McGovern: Women’s Platform volunteer

Peyton has found the sustainability of Women’s Platform to be encouraging and inspiring. Volunteering at Scalabrini has solidified in her mind that she wants to continue working towards educating and empowering vulnerable women. Read more about her experience here.  

I am interested in immigration reform and social justice, specifically in education and women’s empowerment. I work as the Personal Development Intern for the Women’s Platform. 

I have gained so many professional skills as well as gained a whole neunderstanding of the immigration system in South Africa. I feel that my communication and problem-solving skills have greatly improved. There is always an effective, intersectional approach to alleviating unnecessary pain and struggle. Scalabrini is a manifestation of this concept. 

The sustainability of the Women’s Platform is so encouraging and inspiring; to be so confident that years from now, women will continue to be taught, nourished, and empowered through this organisation.”

This is what I want to do with my life. I want to work with vulnerable women to empower and educate them. I have made connections with the clients and staff at Scalabrini that have changed my perspective on what it means to be a human living among those different from you. I am grateful for the opportunities presented through this organisation. 

The most memorable experiences have been working with clients directly. I love helping/attending workshops, when the women come to the platform to ask questions or chat and talking to the peer facilitators or other interns about the future of the platform. The sustainability of the Women’s Platform is so encouraging and inspiring; to be so confident that years from now, women will continue to be taught, nourished, and empowered through this organisation.  

Lows of my experience where mostly just in the beginning when I was extremely overwhelmed. The things that make me nervous or stressed in the beginning no longer bother me. I have been well supported and been given a lot of responsibility. The Women’s Platform knows how to support their interns and staff. I feel as though they truly want me to do my best work and be my best self. 

My hope is that when you come to Scalabrini, you will be received with love and empathy just as everyone who walks through Scalabrini’s door always is.