Scalabrini Centre launches ‘Speaking in the Gap’

An exploratory project on bridging the personal and the political through creative advocacy work

This report reflects on the research process and findings of a short study designed to explore how the personal, lived experiences of marginalised communities can be creatively expressed with the aim of informing, shaping, and catalysing political and high-level advocacy work.

“The stories themselves were shared by participants in participatory research processes and developed in group sessions with the facilitators. Some have been documented through arts-based, visual methods, while others have found a home in the encounters and moments shared in the groups.”

This is a report with many authors, from the facilitators – Yusra Price, Jill Van Dugteren, Xoli Fuyani and Shingi West – to the Director of the Scalabrini Centre, Giulia Treves, and the Scalabrini staff, and to all the women and girls who participated in the creative processes and shared experiences and stories. The commitment, hard work and willingness to engage by all those involved made the writing of this report the easy part, and I am extremely grateful to everyone. As this report shows, there is no obvious or one way of thinking through creative advocacy or of sharing and engaging with the stories that need to be heard. There are also far more questions than there are answers. The hope, then, is that this is a starting point and that many more creative, vibrant, and meaningful engagements are to come.

Covid-19 Lock-down: Important information for refugees and migrants in South Africa

This webpage centralizes information that is important for refugee and migrant communities to know about during the Covid-19 lock-down. Please contact us on Facebook or at info@scalabrini.org.za with your questions.

Banking

The Banking Association of South Africa confirmed that their banks do not automatically restrict such bank accounts as a result of expired asylum or refugee documentation.

Asylum seeker permits or refugee status which expired during lockdown (from 15 March 2020 onwards) are considered to have been extended up to, and including, 30 June 2021 (see “Documentation” below). If you are having difficulty accessing your bank account because your asylum seeker permit or refugee status expired during lockdown, you should print out these Department of Home Affairs’ Directions and take this to the bank, along with your document.

If you have further questions about this, you can contact our Advocacy Programme. To do so, please send a WhatsApp to 0782603536. This is operational between 9am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.

Children

Scalabrini runs a project focusing on non-South African / foreign children. We provide assistance in terms of child protection and documentation, and our team includes a social worker and auxiliary social worker. If you are concerned about the welfare of a child during lock-down please send an SMS or a ‘please-call’ to our Advocacy hotline on 0782603536.

Contacting Scalabrini

If you have a question for a specific programme, click here to find out how you can contact us at this time.

Documentation / Home Affairs

Asylum/refugee visas:

If your asylum seeker permit or refugee status has expired, or is due to expire, during lockdown (from 15 March 2020 onwards), it is considered to have been extended up to, and including, 30 April 2022. 

You can read these Directions and Amended Directions in a combined document here. This confirms the extension up to 30 June. Then, on 29 June, the Department of Home Affairs made an announcement extending this until 30 September 2021. You can see the announcement here. On 29 September , the Department of Home Affairs made an announcement extending this until 31 December 2021. You can read these Amended Directions here 

The Department of Home Affairs has also indicated that they will begin an online renewal process for asylum seeker and refugee documentation.

We have developed an infographic to guide you through this online process. Click here to see the infographic.

Refugee Reception Offices:

Refugee Reception Offices have not offered any face-to-face services since they closed at the beginning of lockdown.  As explained above, the Department of Home Affairs has also indicated that they will begin an online renewal process for asylum seeker and refugee documentation. See our infographic about this here.

Immigration visas (work, business, study, etc):

Home Affairs has said that visas which expired from 15 February 2020 will not be declared illegal or prohibited persons, nor will they be arrested or detained for holding an expired visa. They are considered to have had their visa extended up until 30 June 2021 – see amended regulations here. If they wish to apply for an extension, they may reapply for their respective visas or relevant visa exemptions while in the Republic immediately after the lockdown has been lifted. Furthermore, if your visa expired during the lockdown period and you wish to leave South Africa, you should not receive a ‘ban’ upon exiting South Africa.

Certain visas have been extended until 30 September 2021. You can read more about this here.

VFS Global: 

All applications pertaining to immigration visas in South Africa are to be made via VFS Global. VFS is accepting applications on temporary residence visas and waivers. Other services are to be phased in. Appointments must be made; please check the VFS Global South Africa site for more details.

Civic services at the Department of Home Affairs:

DHA confirmed in March 2021 that services such as birth registration, re- issuance of births certificates, death registration, applications for temporary identity certificate, applications for identity cards or documents, collection of identity cards or documents, applications and collection of passports, applications for amendments of personal particulars, applications for rectification of personal particulars, solemnisation and registration of marriages, all back office operational services to support front offices on the above services, visa services in terms of the Immigration Act and online renewal of refugee status and asylum seeker permits /visas.

IDs and travel documents for dependents:

The Department of Home Affairs has made certain services available for dependents (joined to the file) of recognised refugees. This means that if you have refugee status, and you have dependents joined to your refugee file or dependents who were previously joined, that dependent can now apply on email for an ID or travel document if they can show supporting documentation that they are writing matric, enrolling in further studies, or taking up employment. You must have all the supporting documents listed in the DHA document shown here, and can email a request to enabledocument.asm@dha.gov.za

Driving

Regarding all learner’s licences, driving licence cards, temporary driving licences and professional driving permits that expired between March 26 and December 31 2020: these are deemed to be valid, and their validity periods have been extended until August 31 2021. 

In terms of driving licenses, people on asylum seeker or refugee documentation should also be provided with services at licensing services centres. If you are denied this service, you can contact Scalabrini’s Advocacy Team. To do this, you can send a WhatsApp to 078 260 3536. Or you can call, SMS or send a please-call-me to 083 433 5062. This will be logged and one of the Advocacy team members will get back to you.

Emergency Contacts

If you feel unsafe during lock-down, or want to report a crime, or need a similar urgent services, click here to see a list of numbers to call who can support you – which has been translated into different languages.

Evictions

For housing or eviction-related advice or assistance you can contact the Legal Support Hotline on 066 076 8845, or the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (WhatsApp, call or ‘please-call-me’ to 073 226 4648 / 071 301 9676 / 083 720 6600 or email sanele@seri-sa.org) or Ndifuna Ukwazi (081 832 9363; disha@nu.org.za).

Legal Advice

For general legal advice, call the Legal Support Hotline on 066 076 8845. You can also click here for CoRMSA’s list of useful contacts. 

For advice relating to the lives of migrants, asylum-seekers, refugees (whether documented or undocumented), please contact Scalabrini’s Advocacy Team. To do this, you can send a WhatsApp to 078 260 3536. Or you can call, SMS or send a please-call-me to 083 433 5062. This will be logged and one of the Advocacy team members will get back to you.

Marriages

The Department of Home Affairs has confirmed  that services at civic offices include the solemnisation and registration of marriages. Following a recent court case, asylum seekers in South Africa who wish to have their marriage solemnised by the Department of Home Affairs (or to register their customary marriage at DHA) should be able to do so. This includes marriages between people where asylum documents have expired since the state of national disaster was declared (15 March 2020).

If you are having difficulties with this, you can contact Scalabrini’s Advocacy Team. Please send an SMS or “please-call” to 0782603536 and, if possible, include your full name. Your message will be logged and one of our Advocacy Team members will get in touch with you.

Preventing the spread of Covid-19

Click here to download and share our posters about covid-19. These posters are translated into 12 different languages, including Lingala, Somali, Swahili, Kikongo, French, Zulu and Xhosa.

Reporting abuse by police and military during lock-down

Under lock-down, the police and military have a role to prevent the spread of covid-19. To this end, they can only use force in very specific circumstances. Lawyers for Human Rights have created an infographic to explain this, and how to report on it – click here to view it. The Military Ombudsman can be called on 076 609 2255.

Rent – paying rent during lockdown

Under lock-down, paying rent might not be easy. If you are having trouble paying your rent, first engage with your landlord. Ndifuna Ukwazi has created an infographic on What happens if you cannot pay rent during lockdown. They have also created a podcast which you can listen to for more details.

SASSA (grants)

SASSA Grants are accessible by South African citizens, those with refugee status, or those with permanent residency in South Africa. In order to apply, a 13-digit ID number is required. For those on refugee status, this 13-digit ID number is generated only when a Refugee ID is applied to (which is different to refugee status, and can only be applied to if refugee status is granted). However, SASSA has made provision, under lockdown, for those refugees who, although they have refugee status, do not have a 13-digit ID as they have not applied for a refugee ID. This is a temporary measure only. SASSA will generate a unique 13-digit ID for these cases. The applicant must phone the SASSA helpline, and get instructions on the various steps they have to take; one of which is deposing to an affidavit. If your refugee status has expired, we advise you to try to claim your SASSA grant. You can also contact: 0800 601011 for SASSA questions. If you are then denied access, please call Refugee Rights Unit on 021 650 5581 for legal assistance.

Please note, regarding the Social Relief of Distress Grant: Following a court case undertaken by Scalabrini and Norton Rose Fullbright, some of South Africa’s asylum-seekers and special-permit holders are now able to apply for the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant (‘SRD grant’).  Applicants for the grant, just like any other persons, will still subject to SASSA’s eligibility criteria – they cannot be receiving an income, any other form of grant, or any economic relief from UIF. People who hold asylum-seeker and special permit status in South Africa, whose documents were valid at the start of the National State of Disaster will be able to apply for the SRD grant. Applicants will need to provide their documents, as issued by the South African government. This SRD grant is a ‘special’ grant rolled out for a limited period only, until March 2022, and only eligible candidates will receive R350 each month during that limited period.

To find out if you are eligible for the SRD Grant read our infographic here 

Read our SRD Grant infographic, for people on asylum documentation or special permits,  here.

Testing and Strategy for Covid-19

For more information on the South African government’s response to Covid-19, keep updated at www.sacoronavirus.co.za. If you have a Covid-19 health-related query, you can call the National Hotline on 0800 029 999 or the toll-free hotline on 080 928 4102. The Western Cape has its own Western Cape Government’s Covid-19 Response page, too.

Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF)

Because of the covid-19 lockdown, the Department of Labour set up the  ‘COVID-19 Temporary Employee / Employer Scheme’. This helps employers pay a part of their employee’s salary if they closed completely or partially during the lockdown. Normally, your employer should start this process, however if your employer is not using this Scheme you may also be able to apply on your own behalf. For any queries related to UIF TERS Benefits Application, call the UIF Call Centre (0800 030 007).

We have also made an infographic and explainer on the COVID-19 Temporary Employee / Employer Scheme, aimed at those on refugee, asylum or migrant status in South Africa. Please note that *closing dates* have now been applied to UIF TERS. Follow the link above for more information.

Alternatively, if you are a UIF contributor and are unemployed because of termination, dismissal, or insolvency, or if you have reduced income owing to reduced working hours, you may be eligible to apply for Normal UIF Benefits – apply online with the UIF Online Filing System. For more info, follow this UIF’s Easy Guide for Electronic Claims, call UIF for assistance (0800 030 007), or read our Explainer on UIF.

Welfare assistance

We encourage those needing welfare assistance to research all available options, including your local Community Action Network, churches and masjids.

If you have questions about assistance and support, you can contact the Scalabrini Welfare team.

However, please note, our Welfare Team has a very limited fund to help refugees and migrants at this time. Please understand that the Welfare Team are simply not able to assist everyone. We are receiving a very high number of calls and requests. Your application to Welfare Assistance will be assessed, but we cannot assist everyone.

To apply, please call or send a ‘please-call’ SMS to 071 711 1486 (Monday-Friday 9am-4pm). You can also email jane@scalabrini.org.za.

For governmental updates, check www.sacoronavirus.co.za. The national Covid-19 hotline is contactable on: 0800 029 999.

Mapping of mental health and psychosocial services for children (including children on the move) in the Western Cape

This document has been compiled by the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town in order to map various services available to children, including children on the move, in respect of mental health and psychosocial support. The document has adopted a wide interpretation of mental health and psychosocial support services so that it includes more conventional mental health programmes and support, such as the SA depression and anxiety group, as well as other wellbeing personal development-related programmes.  

It is acknowledged that this mapping project is a living document and will need to be updated from time to time as resources and offerings change, as well as if services are added or discontinued. It is recommended that a review is done on at least a yearly basis in this regard. 

This mapping document was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, UNHCR, and UNICEF and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.  

Critical Skills: A documentary

South Africa is losing out on the skills of refugees living in the country. Critical Skills, our new documentary released on Labour Day 2021, looks at the struggles that skilled refugees face in order to practice in South Africa. Complex requirements result in doctors and vets working as trench-diggers and meat-packers. The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town is advocating for improved systems to recognize skilled refugees, thus allowing them to practice and the South African economy to benefit from their qualifications.

Critical Skills follows Dr Ntumba, a veterinary doctor from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who specializes in agropastoralism, and Dr Futu, a medical doctor also from DRC, who managed a hospital in the conflict-ridden Eastern provinces of Congo providing care to victims of war. Both Dr Ntumba and Dr Futu left DRC due to political instability.

Simply unable to get their skills recognised in South Africa, Dr Ntumba works packing meat in a supermarket and Dr Futu finds small jobs such as trench-digging. ‘Emotionally, you feel diminished,’ explains Dr Ntumba. ‘Without practicing, I will lose my skills. South Africa is actually losing … they should have used me.’

Paper battles in South Africa

The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) is the sole authority to recognize foreign qualifications in South Africa. Dr Julie Reddy, acting CEO of SAQA, and Mr Navin Vasudev, Deputy Director, who feature in the documentary, evaluate foreign qualifications against the South African National Qualifications Framework. Yearly, SAQA evaluates around 25,000 foreign qualifications.

Applicants to this SAQA process require a host of documents – including every original transcript of each year passed at college or university. For refugees who have fled their countries due to war or persecution, having all these documents is very difficult. Universities in certain areas (especially those affected by conflict) may have shut down, barring SAQA’s ability to verify information.

A pilot project: evaluation of incomplete documentation of refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa

In response to refugees and asylum seekers’ lack of original documents, SAQA has been working on alternative ways to recognise asylum and refugee applicants. This culminated in SAQA drawing up an addendum that allows for a special dispensation to recognise qualifications of refugees and asylum seekers. SAQA ran a pilot project in November 2019 to allow for alternative means of verifying and evaluating qualifications whilst allowing for stringent checks. 

Professional councils: the next hurdle

If SAQA recognition is achieved, another hurdle is faced by foreign applicants: registration with a relevant professional council. This is a cumbersome and expensive process – sitting the South African Veterinary Council exam, for example, costs around 34 000 ZAR. On top of this, most professional bodies only accept refugee documentation, and not asylum seeker documentation. (A recent report found that 60% of asylum respondents’ adjudications took over five years – so many asylum-seekers spend considerable lengths of time on asylum documentation.)

Three ideas for South African authorities

Hylton Bergh, Employment Access Manager at the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, works to ensure asylum seeker, refugee and migrant clients are able to practice their skills in South Africa. In the documentary, he explains three changes that could ensure an improved process for the employment of qualified refugees in South Africa:

Professional councils need to be made aware of the circumstances of foreign nationals and their value, both monetary and intellectual, to the various professional sectors – which includes allowing asylum seekers to register with professional bodies.

The South African government could reconsider BBBEE policies, especially as it relates to the Critical Skills List, because refugees from elsewhere in Africa currently do not contribute to BBBEE points.

South African industries could advocate for changes to the above policies because the more skilled our work force the better the economic growth for our country.

Enquiries

Hylton Bergh

Employment Access Manager

Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town

hylton@scalabrini.org.za

Navin Vasudev

Deputy Director-Verification Foreign Qualifications Evaluation and Advisory Services

South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA)

nvasudev@saqa.co.za

Lotte Manicom

Advocacy Communications Manager

Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town

lotte@scalabrini.org.za

National Action on Racism and Xenophobia

Did you know that the South African government has committed to combatting racism, xenophobia and related intolerance? This was confirmed in the government’s National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (NAP-19).

Our #NapMap19 infographic series explores the NAP-19 and what it means for South Africa.

Click on the image to navigate through the infographic. If you are on your mobile, just swipe!

Our Written Comments on Dept. of Basic Education Admission Policy

On 12 March 2021, the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town submitted written comments to the Department of Basic Education in response to their draft policy – the Admission Policy for Ordinary Public Schools, as contemplated in section 12(3)(a)(i) of the South African Schools Act, 1996.

In our written comments, we welcome the inclusion of the principle of non-discrimination provided for in the policy. We also welcome the explicit inclusion in the policy that a learner must be admitted regardless of the ability to pay, as well as the other factors listed.

We urge, in our comments, that the policy be widened in certain areas to include provisions for learners  regardless of their documentation status or citizenship. We also request that the policy speak to the fact that many learners are cared for by caregivers and guardians – not only biological parents.

Read our full written comments below.

Our Written Comments on the Draft One-Stop Border Post Policy

On 28 February 2021, the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town submitted written comments on the draft One-Stop Border Post Policy, which was published in the Government Gazette on 31 December 2020.

Overall, these written comments relate to the provision of international protection to asylum seekers and refugees, and other persons of concern in the context of one-stop border posts; the draft Policy’s omission of plans to prevent bribery and corruption; and concerns regarding the Department of Home Affairs’ capacity constraints in the implementation of a one-stop border post.

We welcome the draft Policy’s initiatives towards regional integration and greater
mobility in the SADC region, and believe the Department of Home Affairs should build on these by pursuing other initiatives originally proposed in the White Paper on International Migration.

Our written comments also highlight that the creation of a one-stop border post, as well as the implementation of measures to ensure greater efficiency at border posts, and in respect of visa processing, must always be in line with South Africa’s obligations in terms of international law.

To read our full written comments, click on the button below.

Our Written Comments on Draft Official Identity Management Policy

On 28 February 2021, the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town submitted written comments on the South African Government’s draft Official Identity Management Policy, which was published in the Government Gazette on 31 December 2020.

These written comments are based on our extensive experience in the area of refugee and migrant rights, and have been submitted in light of the impact they stand to have upon migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in South Africa.

Our comments on the draft Policy relate to general observations on the policy as a whole and any gaps or welcome inclusions; and specific comments relating to the three themes outlined in the policy and the ten principles arranged under those themes. The written comments welcome the draft Policy’s commitment towards universal coverage and universal birth registration through an identity system that is free from discrimination.

Our comments also welcome the initiatives towards a centralized national identity management system which includes the identity information of citizens and residents in South Africa, the interoperability of identity systems, and recommendations towards the a randomized identity numbering system.

To read the full Written Comments, click on the button below.

Scalabrini submits written comments on the Children’s Amendment Bill

In November 2020, the Scalabrini Centre submitted written comments on the Children’s Amendment Bill. These comments were based on Scalabrini’s extensive experience in the area of refugee and migrant rights, and specifically the rights of unaccompanied or separated migrant children (USMC).

The written comments welcomed the inclusion of unaccompanied and separated foreign children in the amendments, but noted some concerns too. Namely, the Scalabrini Centre outlined its concerns about implementation. It also sought to point out that, where other departments would be equally responsible for implementation (or where the actions of another Department impact on the implementation of such amendments), regulations must be published so as to ensure that the best interests of the child are respected, protected, promoted and fulfilled.

Our written comments also noted that, although the financial implications of the Bill were provided, no clear commitment was made in terms of financing the amendments. This is of particularly concern given the recent experience between the national Department and Provincial Departments in respect of the implementation of the NAWONGO judgment in all provinces as per the National Directive to that effect. Despite this directive, the implementation has not taken place across all provinces. Our written comments noted concern that, without a clear undertaking from the National Department of Social Development, the costing provided in the Bill would not be equitably implemented. The written comments then look at a clause-by-clause analysis of the Amendment Bill.

To read the full written submission, click on the button below.

Taking back the power and finding strength | #HelpingHandsSGBV

Our #HelpingHandsSGBV campaign looks at how SGBV in South Africa affects children and adults from other countries. For non-South Africans, there can be extra barriers to reporting SGBV – but there are similarities in their experiences too. #HelpingHandsSGBV aims to provide information on how to better understand, report and get help on issues of SGBV in South Africa. 

Although Mawuwa’s* story is one of abuse starting in her home country of Burundi, it is also a story of strength. She has never given up on fighting for herself and her children to have a better life.  

Difficult Journeys 

In the beginning it was difficult for me to speak up – it was really difficult.” Living very much in isolation in South Africa, not being able to speak English well and having only the father of her children for support – Mawuwa found herself unable to leave her abusive household. Noticing the bruises, a teacher at her daughter’s school began a conversation with Mawuwa around the safety of her and her children. “The teacher asked me if I want to stay – I said I don’t know where to go. I have no family. If I had somewhere to go, I would leave him.”  

Ending up in hospital and having her children taken into care was the end of the line for Mawuwa and the father of her children. She did not want to return to the house for fear of her life. “I made the decision not to go back.” This was the point where she decided that she was going to fight for herself and fight to get her children back.  

Mawuwa has faced barriers that are common for many people affected by sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), but specifically for people who are not originally from South Africa. Her documentation was used as leverage by her partner and her lack of English meant that her support was very small if it existed at all.  

Gaining strength and finding help 

After Mawuwa was discharged from hospital, she began approaching different organisations for assistance, finding bits of help from each organisationShe travelled around Cape Town determined to seek out support and assistance. Mawuwa was reunited with her children from whom she had been separated during her discharge from hospital. 

Mawuwa accessed counseling services as well as legal services to help move forward in all spheres of life. Although some organisations were not able to help, her case is currently with lawyers who are helping her and her children specifically with their documentation.  

Her advice to someone living in a similar situation is to reach out to organisationsThere are different services that can be accessed and different forms of help available.  You can visit the Scalabrini website to find organisations dealing with SGBV.  

Dreaming of a better future  

Mawuwa hopes for a life where her and her children can live with freedom from fear. Being able to have the correct documentation would allow Mawuwa and her family to access the rights that they have been fighting for over the last few years. Mawuwa dreams of her children having access to opportunities that she did not have; she wants them to be able to pursue their dreams and to live a life of peace.  

*Names and places have been changed