SAHRC commemorates the 2011 World Refugee Day
Date: Monday, 20 June 2011
On 20th of June each year, South Africa joins the international community in commemorating World Refugee Day. The SA Human Rights Commission views World Refugee Day as a formal opportunity for the South African government, as well as other governments across the world, to re-affirm the values upon which international agreements of refugee protection are based. It is also a time for all sectors of society to reflect on their role, to examine, form and strengthen partnerships on how best to find lasting solutions to the challenges faced by refugees.
South Africa is seen by many, particularly by those who are less fortunate and who have been forced to flee their countries of origin due to conflict, civil strife, poor governance and general human rights violation, as a shining beacon of hope, representing their dreams and aspirations of a better future.
The continued threat of violence and displacement that foreign shop owners, for instance, are faced with, perpetuates a state of insecurity and general unrest.
The intolerance that is often at the root of internal displacement and refugee flows is also present in some of the countries that refugees flee to. Instead of finding empathy and understanding, they are often met with mistrust or scorn.
In South Africa these challenges in the main part relate to access to refugee documentation that enables self-reliance and access to socio-economic services, mainly health and education. In addition to these issues, refugees are also subject to particular hardships such as family separation, exploitation, violence and generalized discrimination. They continue to bear the brunt of increasing intolerance, which has resulted in destruction of property and loss of lives as seen in the recent past in areas of the Eastern Cape, for example. These issues are of serious concern to the Commission as they are contrary to the spirit of our Constitution that guarantees rights to all persons.
As a constitutionally mandated body the Commission works to promote and protect the rights of all people, and this includes refugees. As part of its mandate the Commission engages in community outreach work, through educational initiatives such as workshops, seminars and community dialogues; advocates and lobbies for a rights-based legislative framework; builds awareness and places issues onto the public agenda through the media; provides redress where there have been human rights violations and monitors the implementation of policies so that people can realize and enjoy their rights in their daily lives.
While most refugees want to go home, some cannot safely return. But wherever they are, refugees will always strive to pick up the pieces and start over. The courage and determination demonstrated during their darkest hours will serve them well in rebuilding a new life. On World Refugee Day, let us honour them for these qualities and recognise the richness and diversity they bring to our societies.
The Commission continues to unequivocally call for tolerance, understanding and respect for human rights.
For further enquiries: Vincent Moaga on 073 562 9866
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