Three insights on migration: Sarita

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The team at The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town (SCCT) works with migrants and refugees every day. With such deep expertise at hand, we take the opportunity to reflect on migration with them. This month we speak to Sarita, who volunteered with the Employment Access for four months. 

Sarita saw how harnessing the skills that migration brings could benefit South Africa – and Africa as a whole.  

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Sarita moved from South Africa to Germany in her teenage years. “Most of SCCT clients move away because of dangerous situations. When I moved to Germany, I had a much easier landing than a lot of our clients do.” Although her move to Germany was ‘comfortable’, her experience enabled her to empathise with people who have moved away from home. Sarita returned to South Africa to start her studies and began volunteering with Employment Access.  

Living in a different country can present barriers when it comes to seeking employment. Sarita noticed how these barriers were exacerbated for SCCT clients during the time of Covid-19. “Just applying for jobs is difficult. Many clients can’t apply for jobs because they have no data, people don’t have money for transport or childcare to be able to go to interviews or to work.” This applies to South African citizens too. With clients not being able to come into SCCT, Sarita and the Employment Access team depended on telephonic consultations – and language barriers became more obvious.  

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“Many people who are migrants or refugees are highly qualified when they come to South Africa. In my time at SCCT, I worked with people who are qualified doctors and teachers.” Many people are not able to use their qualifications in South Africa. “One of the qualified nurses applied for a housekeeping job. There are very few people that I’ve met who have been able to work in their fields.” Watch our documentary called Critical Skills, which looks at the struggles that skilled refugees face in order to practice in South Africa here.  

Sarita emphasises that South Africa could be harnessing these skills and qualifications. “We have such a serious lack of skills. We have understaffed hospitals, but hundreds of nurses are here and unable to work. If South Africa could develop accessible processes to allow qualified non-citizens to practice their skills, I definitely think that people who are migrants or refugees could help to fill major gaps in our sectors”. 

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Looking at migration from an economic perspective, Sarita says that research shows, migration could bring positive change to the African continent as a whole. “If South Africa can shift to a Pan-African perspective, I think we could see major benefits. Strengthening our economy and increasing the number of skilled people strengthens us all.”  

Sarita reflects on the wider picture of harnessing the economic potential of migration. “That can only happen if we’re engaging with and including everybody instead of choosing to engage and include one group of people.” (New Study Finds Immigrants in South Africa Generate Jobs for Locals –