UN agency accused of xenophobia against Zim migrants

xenophobia_de_doorns_womenA refugee rights group in South Africa has accused the United Nations refugee agency of xenophobia, for not ......
(Pictured: Foreign immigrants queuing at a social services centre in South Africa (File pic)

affording Zimbabwean refugees the same treatment as other refugees in South Africa. The group, People against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP) last week said that Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa are victims of a form of selective assistance by organisations meant to help them.

The groups Braam Hanekom said that these organisations, often funded or mandated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), have refused to help Zimbabweans, who have been accused of being opportunistic.

Hanekom said, because Zimbabweans are usually classed as economic migrants, they are not afforded the same rights as other refugees. He said such prejudice is just another form of xenophobia.

Hanekom further accused the UNHCR of being deliberately malicious towards a group of Zimbabweans still living in a refugee camp in the Western Cape.

Last year, almost 2000 Zimbabweans from the De Doorns farming town were forced to flee their homes after angry locals went on the rampage, burning down shacks belonging to foreigners. The Zimbabweans fled to a makeshift refugee camp that was set up to house them, but more than three months later than camp is still at full capacity.

Research by migration experts has recently shown how the humanitarian nature of the exodus of Zimbabweans to neighbouring Southern African countries has blurred the distinction between a refugee and an economic migrant.

According to a report released late last year by the Forced Migration Studies Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, Zimbabweans fit neither category perfectly and instead fall between the cracks.??

Official responses to Zimbabwean migration in Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique are still premised on this distinction, and so are failing to protect both Zimbabweans and [their own] citizens, noted Zimbabwean Migration into Southern Africa: New Trends and Responses, a report released last December.

The report detailed how those crossing the border were not refugees as most did not even apply for refugee status while, given the extent of economic collapse in Zimbabwe, were not considered to be voluntary economic migrants either.??

Lack of protection of migrants in the region is based on a false distinction between a forced and an economic migrant, instead of focusing on the real and urgent needs some of these migrants have, the report said.??

The report suggested that a better term would be forced humanitarian migrants, who moved for the purpose of their and their dependents basic survival.

Post published in: Politics

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