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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