Survival exhibition highlights suffering of migrants in SA

Abuse by police and government officials, xenophobia and lack of access to healthcare are some of the problems faced by migrants living in South Africa, an ongoing exhibition in South Africa revealed.

Vulnerable migrants opened up at the Solidarity for Survival exhibition organised by Médecins Sans Frontières and is taking place at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg.

Solidarity for Survival seeks to promote awareness around the plight of migrants living in South Africa.

“Life here is not as rosy as people back home believe. Police regularly arrest us for trumped up charges and solicit bribes from us. Also, in violation of South African laws, it is difficult to get treatment at health centres because we are at times turned away as we do not have the papers regulating our stay here,” said a 27 year old Zimbabwean asylum seeker at the launch of the exhibition.

Zain Zam, a young Somali woman, concurred.

“The service at the Department of Home Affairs is stressful. It is difficult, almost impossible, to obtain refugee permits. It costs between R2 000 and R5 000 to bribe officials to process such papers. Nonetheless, some police do not recognise such papers and routinely arrest us. They solicit for bribes and if one does not part with money, one rots in remand prison,” she lamented.

An asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who identified himself as Henry, said South Africans were xenophobic.

“Even youngsters have bought into the belief that a person from DRC or Zimbabwe is here to wreck their future by stealing their jobs and resources,” said Henry.

Kate Ribet, MSF Communications Officer, said migrants in South Africa were a vulnerable lot.

“MSF teams witness regular harassment, sexual violence, healthcare exclusion and the lack of protection that people experience while seeking refuge in South Africa. The intolerance and indifference to plight of vulnerable migrants in South Africa, and elsewhere, is due to a lack of understanding of why they flee their home countries,” she said.

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