The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, are deeply concerned about the situation of migrants in South Africa during this Covid-19 crisis. The exclusion of any segment of society from access to testing, treatment and other palliative measures put in place to cushion the effects of measures taken to combat the spread of the virus will, ultimately, undermine national efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
Dr Romola Adeola is a Migration Rights Clinic Coordinator Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria.
Our overall efforts will fail if we allow prejudice and stigmatisation on the basis of nationality to cause undocumented migrants and other non-nationals to be victimised when they attempt to use these services, or if they are excluded from these services.
Government should be guided by section 27(3) of the South African Constitution, which provides that “no one may be refused emergency medical treatment.” The government should make an explicit commitment that no one will, on the basis of their status as a foreign national or undocumented migrant, be excluded from services, or suffer any adverse consequences due to seeking these services.
Such an inclusive approach is in line with the regulations issued in terms of the Disaster Management Act, in which the government committed itself, without reference to the issue of nationality, to release resources to ensure the delivery of essential services, to prevent, limit, contain, combat and manage the spread of Covid-19.
While the government’s efforts to provide food aid to vulnerable persons is commendable, it appears that applicants for food aid are being asked for their ID numbers and that citizens are prioritised in this process.
Government must ensure that asylum seekers whose papers were not processed before the lockdown, are not criminalised.
The government, through the Department of Home Affairs, should explicitly give directions for the protection of asylum seekers in this period.
We would like to remind the government about its commitment to non-discrimination in the National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances. In this time of Covid-19, it is imperative that the government abides by its commitments towards combating xenophobia and all forms of intolerances.
In view of the above stated, we call on the government of South Africa to:
Emphatically make a commitment that no undocumented migrant will be prosecuted when they present themselves for screening, testing and treatment, or excluded from these services;
Ensure that non-nationals are not discriminated against in the government’s provision of food aid and other essential services to those who may be in need;
Ensure that foreign nationals and undocumented migrants are not discriminated against and singled out during the de-densification of informal settlements and other over-crowded areas;
Explicitly protect asylum seekers whose papers were not processed before the national lockdown; and
Continue to ensure that non-nationals spaza shop owners are not discriminated against during this lockdown period.
The institutions highlighted that while the government’s efforts to provide food aid to vulnerable persons is commendable, it appears that applicants for food aid are being asked for their ID number, and that citizens are prioritised in this process.
They made a plea that the government should be guided by solidarity; a call that has been echoed by government officials since the beginning of the crisis and national lockdown. This is not a time to exclude certain populations within society or a time to reinforce negative attitudes against non-nationals.
Daar word teen niemand gediskrimineer as daar virus toetse gedoen word of nie. Meestal is daar vereistes soos al die simptome waarvoor getoets moet word.
Ironies – in dieselfde asem word daar voorbrand gemaak vir alle immigrante, maar daar word teenoor blanke besighede gediskrimineer om fondse te ontvang vanaf donasies – geen woord word daaroor gerep nie. Blankes kwalifiseer nie om fondse te ontvang nie.
Sommige besighede mag ook nie hul deure oopmaak om te kan oorleef nie. Klein besighede werk vir hulself maar daar is normaalweg ook werkers wat almal gesinne het wat afhanklik is van salarisse.
OTHER INFORMATION AND BACKGROUND