Today the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town celebrates the International Day of Peace – which, this year, has been dedicated to the safety and respect for refugees and migrants. We celebrate the relative peace that South Africa can offer those fleeing conflict, and encourage the government to continue providing refuge in the future to those that need it.
The United Nations decided to focus International Day of Peace 2017 on migration in order to encourage critical awareness and initiate activism on this topic, and serves as an initiative to inform individuals on the shared benefits of migration to economies and nations, while also acknowledging legitimate concerns of host communities.
Peace Day celebrates non-violence and ideologies of unanimous inclusion for all individuals from every nation. The original narrative, drafted by the UN in 1981, describes Peace Day as a day ‘devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples’. The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warns us that “in times of insecurity, communities that look different become convenient scapegoats … we must resist cynical efforts to divide communities and portray neighbors as ‘the other’. Together, let us build bridges. Together, let us transform fear into hope.”
“In 2016, Scalabrini’s clients celebrated World Refugee Day in a show of thanks, acknowledging the relative safety and peace that South Africa is able to offer asylum seekers and refugees fleeing conflict”
South-Africa is not unique in facing issues around managing migration. However the country’s historical evolution and socio-economic developments are unique in framing migrant and refugee issues and integration policies. Recent policy-developments such as the White Paper include positive aspects that recognises the benefits of migration, especially within the Southern African region. However, planned changes to the asylum system are alarming, causing restrictions to those seeking refuge in South Africa.
No doubt, there are many difficulties in facilitating an effective integration policy. Scalabrini welcomes the plans to expand visa options for certain migrants in South Africa, whilst acknowledging the challenges that the asylum system is facing. The Centre encourages the government to continue to ensure that, in the future, a fair asylum system provides refuge, peace and dignity to those that need it.
Written by Amber Ditz