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Welcome to our global #FarFromHome series: reflections on covid-19 lockdown from people who are are far from their family and home-country. We hope this brings comfort and reassurance.

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Adam is from Syria, and now lives in Scotland.

What brings you inspiration at this time? In my opinion, I hope that God should always accompany us, so I always hope that everyone will be in excellent health and great psychological well-being.

What characteristics of yourself have you relied on to get through this tough time?
I have discipline built in myself, and discipline is best needed to achieve patience, steadfastness and replace negative energies with positive ones.

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Baba is originally from Sierra Leone. He now lives in Angola.

What brings you inspiration at the moment? My hopes lie at the end of the pandemic. So, let us have faith that all this calamity will end, and our lives will return to normal.

What good qualities has this brought out in you? That I am willing to sacrifice for the good of others.

Has this experience changed your interaction with your neighbours or community? Yes, now we have inspirations of solidarity and unity.

What good qualities has this brought out in you? That I am willing to sacrifice for the good of others.

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Khader is originally from Palestine. He now lives in Greece.

What good qualities has lockdown brought out in you? I have realised that I can create a safer and healthier environment for those around me.

What in your life history has made you better able to deal with this situation? The difficult times I experienced since my early years in my home country, Palestine, has made me better prepared for this situation.

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Gurmu is originally from Ethiopia, but currently lives in Scotland.

Are you connected to people in your home country? I now spend my time connected to the internet. I equip myself with up to date information, then I share this information with people that need it, like my families and friends back home in Ethiopia.

What is your message to people who are living Far From Home during this time? I have this message for the people who are far from their homeland like me: This is unprecedented time in our life, and for our planet. It is time to think about humanity. Keep your solidarity strong, and look after each other please.

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Heather is originally from South Africa and lives in the United Kingdom.

Has anything brought you hope or inspiration at this time? I have been inspired by way that the planet is healing when there are no humans around, and the community spirit that this crisis has brought to the surface.

What other emotions has this period brought for you? The lockdown has brought me fear – I fear the inability to help if family get sick. I don’t know if I would be able to get there or say goodbye.

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Onacisse is from DRC and lives in South Africa. 

What would be your advice to those people facing difficult situations at this time? The only advice I would give to people going through a rough time is try as much to stay positive, because mental health is very important in times like this. The whole world is going through a big crisis and things keep on getting worse each and every single day. Try as much to stay positive Covid-19 is like a storm that came to destroy a lot of plans and things, but it’s going to pass.  

Is there any other message you would like to send to other people who are living far from their original birthplace during this time? To those living far away from their home country like myself, I communicate with relatives and friends on daily basis I encourage you to do the same. It helps a lot! Thanks to advanced technology which enables us to communicate easily. Check up on family and friends, and appreciate them each every day, it reduces stress especially during this tough time. I hope and believe that one day we will rejoice with our loved ones, because Coronavirus is not going to stay forever. And after this pandemic life is going to change for the better. 

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Marc is from DRC and lives in South Africa

What would be your advice to those people facing difficult situations at this time? It would be difficult to advise people during this time, because we have different goals and expectations – some of us has lost their jobs. But we should be prepared to face any situation, be courageous, determined to cope with the situation as it is, hoping that the better days are coming and be content with what we have.

What in your life history has made you better able to deal with this situation? I was raised by my single mother after the death of my father. Life became difficult and uncertain for my mom and I, but she taught me how to be content with the little we had, that is how I lived all my childhood. So that good education received from her helps me to deal with difficult situations and unexpected moments of life. 

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Amkelwa is from the Eastern Cape and lives in Paarl

What in your life history has made you better able to deal with this situation? 

I was able to deal with this situation because of the situation that I grew up with. When I grew up my father was an alcoholic. He used to drink the whole weekend, from Friday to Sunday. When he was drunk he will beat my mother up, and we went to go ask for a place to sleep with our neighbours. Growing up like that has made me strong and I can deal with tough situations. I was the reason why my father has changed and become a better person.  

Thinking about the Covid-19 pandemic, what good qualities has it brought out in you? I would say, I am good at solving problems. The pandemic has brought out the real person that I am, some of the things I have done for other people, I never thought that I would do them for anyone. The thing that made me get through this pandemic is being tough, because if I wasn’t tough and brave, I wouldn’t have made it.  

Has this experience changed your interaction with your neighbours or community? If so, how?  

Yes, I have learnt a lesson that I must always look after my neighbours, because you know when people need your help.  

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Blaise is from DRC and lives in South Africa

What in your life history has made you better able to deal with this situation?  I understood that life is a mysterious journey. People need to help one another, care for the vulnerable and make the weaker ones stronger.

Thinking about the covid-19 pandemic, what good qualities has it brought out in you? I became more sociable than before. But also thought I must become more economical. I understood that I shouldn’t take my freedom for granted but rather use it constructively and intelligently for the best interest of the community.

Has this experience changed your interaction with your neighbours or community? In my neighborhood things were a little different. More people ignored the danger of the pandemic. Everyone was tired of sleeping or staying indoors. Therefore, people started spending more time outside to enjoy the sun and interacting at the same time. This has given me a strong plot to get to know the neighbors, what they do and what they think…

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Urgent Letter: Scalabrini requests Equal Treatment for Asylum Seekers, Refugees, and Migrants in South Africa’s Covid-19 Responses

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On 25th March 2020, the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town wrote a letter to the South African presidency and several ministers. The letter urges them that migrants, asylum seekers and refugees must be included in the response to the covid-19 pandemic.

The letter sets out concerns around the the differentiation in approaches pertaining to non-citizens depending on whether their documentation is issued in terms of the Immigration Act or the Refugees Act.

This lack of formal response to South Africa’s refugee and migrant community exists despite Ramaphosa’s speeches on the importance of an inclusive, pan-African approach to combating covid-19. In the spirit of these words and the sentiment of inclusion, we urge the National Command Centre and all relevant Ministers to ensure a whole-of-society approach in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and impacts of the Lockdown.

Our letter therefore makes five main demands:

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(1) The publication of a formal directive or circular  regarding the renewal of asylum seeker and refugee documentation.
(2) The publication of clear guidelines prohibiting the suspension of any service normally provided to an asylum seeker or refugee document holder, where the suspension is the result of the covid-19 lockdown related expiry of such documentation.
(3) The inclusion of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in the various economic assistance packages, and social relief packages, without discrimination.
(4) The release of clear communication and public statements indicating that non-citizens will not be discriminated against in covid-19 testing, screening and tracing measures, regardless of documentation status.
(5) The reiteration of the need for a moratorium on immigration detention and deportation, as well as deportation related arrests and the processing of deportations at this time.

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Covid-19 Lockdown: Governmental Relief Available to Non-South African Citizens

Some governmental relief packages are open to applications from non-South African citizens during the covid-19 lockdown. These packages are not limited in terms of nationality or citizenship, however you will still have to satisfy the other requirements.