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Refugee University Students Petition for Employment Recognition in South Africa

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Green Paper on international migration in South Africa public comments and suggestions.

The ‘Green Paper on international migration in South Africa’ published on 21 June 2016 has raised many concerns amongst refugees, asylum seekers as well as South African citizens or permanent residence holders residing in South Africa. The largest concern is from refugee and asylum seeker students; both at secondary and tertiary level. This document serves to summarize the main suggestions of the green paper as well as to outline the concerns and thus suggested amendments to the green paper. The aim of the suggested changes or additions to be made to the green paper is to work toward an all-inclusive white paper that not only benefits international migrants, but asylum seekers as well as refugees; in an effort to move South Africa in the direction of achieving a strong and revered economic work force.

The Green Paper has outlined a real issue that South Africa faces, that is that the country needs skilled professionals and currently retaining these skilled individuals has proved difficult. Therefore, in short the green paper suggests that certain “benefits” or better referred to as ‘policy, strategies, institutions and capacity for attracting, recruiting and retaining international migrants with the necessary skills and resources’ [Green paper on international migration in South Africa 2016, P10] be put in place with immediate effect. The green paper suggests that the current pot holes within the country’s economic work force can be fixed through skilled international migrants only, the potential contributions of refugee and asylum seekers are not as much considered or yet alone explored in the green paper. Below is the proposed management of the different type of individuals that currently reside within South Africa.

Asylum seekers

According to the green paper an asylum seeker is an individual that ‘seeks safety from persecution or serious harm in a country other than his or her own and awaits a decision on the application for refugee status’ [Green Paper on international migration in South Africa 2016, P5]. While the definition has been embraced and accepted by many asylum seekers, the proposed management of asylum seekers has left them feeling hopeless and distort.

In the current South Africa, asylum seekers are allowed to work and study while waiting to be awarded with refugee status. This has allowed asylum seekers the opportunity to be self-sufficient and not become a burden on the already burdened social system in the country. In this regard the green paper proposes that Asylum seekers no longer be allowed to work and study while awaiting their fate, subsequently they would be subjected upon their arrival to remain in processing centers; for some in detention centres within the processing centres, while waiting to either be awarded or not with their refugee status. The proposed is that these Asylum seeker processing centres be established close to borderlines and upon failure to be awarded refugee status, the Asylum seeker not be allowed to integrate into South African communities. Where only recognized refugees with refugee status be allowed to integrate into communities.

The above is not only an unfair and impractical suggestion but rather an infringement upon the right of every individual in the world to be treated with humility and dignity; which is not a constitutional right but every living being’s human right no matter which country they are in.

The proposed is that Asylum seekers be allowed to work and study within South Africa, they should also be allowed to integrate into communities once they have been awarded asylum seeker permits. In addition, a period of not more than one year should not pass without the Asylum seeker being awarded refugee status. Where the awarding of such should be done on a per case basis rather than systematically. Alsoin the period for which an Asylum seeker waits for their potential awarding of refugee status, the Asylum seekers should be allowed access to basic social rights and services that will allow him or her to be self-sufficient, these include permitting the opening of a bank account, access to public health care as well as public schools for their children and any other social services deemed necessary for self-sufficiency.

International migrants, permanent residents and Refugees

The Green Paper Cleary defines what an international migrant is, however its rather perplexing as to why the definition of a refugee is not defined nor explained as explicitly. Hence the common understanding of what a refugee is, is an individual that has taken refuge in a country where they feel safe from their country of origin; which has either become unsafe to reside in due to war or any other circumstance whether it be personal or political, and cannot return to that country of origin until the refugee feels that it is safe to return.

The Green Paper proposes that international migrants and only international migrants with critical skills be granted permanent residence

In situations where the reason for fleeing a country of origin are is personal and perhaps political, the individual will usually never feel safe to return back home. Hence many refugees who then remain in the country for more than 5 years and have fully integrated into South African communities start integrating their children and investing in the country. The result thereof is that the refugee reaches a point where even if matters settle within their country of origin they have integrated into the country so deeply that they cannot go back.

Currently South Africa has allowed refugees to work and study in south Africa and the green paper has fortunately retained this right and has added that refugees be granted social security. However, the green paper is then proposing; under management of residency and naturalization (P30-41), that refugees not be allowed to apply for permanent residence on the grounds of the number of years spent in the country, but that only under grounds of meeting skills and investments requirements; which are not stated in the green paper, will they then be allowed to apply for permanent residence. This is not a fair and humanitarian system of managing refugees, especially refugees that fled their countries for reasons that can never be resolved and/or whose countries of origin are likely to never attain peace.

The proposed is that recognized refugees with critical skills necessary for achievement of national priorities, like international migrants, also be granted permanent residence. Where the granting of permanent residence be basis on a case by case system instead of a systematic mandate. The granting of citizenship can remain as being exceptional and the attainment of such status be granted to qualifying individuals according to the current mandate.

The Green Paper proposes that international students who graduate from university be granted permanent residence.

In most sad cases refugee children brought into the country at a young age complete primary school, high school and even tertiary schooling in South Africa and yet remain as refugees like their parents irrespective of the potential contribution that they can make to the south African work force.

In the cases where refugee children or dependents were brought into the country at young age and were not born in the either parents’ country of origin, these children remain without an identity; they do not and can never belonged to their birth parents’ country of origin and they were not recognized as citizens of the countries in which they were born in. The confusion that thus results as a young refugee graduates is vast and sad. In actuality refugee dependents in most cases can never go back to the country which they are supposedly from through association. It is unfortunate that the green paper fails to acknowledge the actual existence of refugee graduates but rather focuses on international graduates.

The proposed is that qualifying refugee university graduates, like international migrants, be granted permanent residence upon graduating from university. Also, in situations where the refugee has completed both primary school as well as high school in South Africa, that refugee should be allowed to be considered in all national and private bursaries that are available for South Africans. Finally,a secular or communication with authoritative bodies hiring university graduates to complete their internships and or community services should be drafted, in this secular it should be stated that refugee students can be allowed to commence their internship as well as community service in the country and that they should treat South African, international migrant as well as refugee potential graduates the same.

The current situation that Refugee students and graduates face is that they struggle to find employment in a country that is in dire need of skilled professionals. So is it not obscure that South Africa has refused refugees opportunities which attract them and retain them in the country so as to contribute to the ever needing work force and economy of South Africa. As refugees and asylum seekers the chances of us going back to our countries of origin are close to zero, especially upon graduating. Hence before South Africa puts in place policies and strategies to attract international migrants into the country, the suggested is that South Africa create policies and strategies to retain the skilled refugees and asylum seekers within the country; it will prove much easier to work with people inside the country than those who are not.

Moving forward a vision of all Africans working together to build Africa together as Africans is what will allow not only South Africa to grow as a nation but Africa as a whole. We live in a world where an African refugee feels that there is a better continent other than Africa that they can seek refuge and this is proving our failure of unifying to end human oppression and unite with our fellow African brothers and sisters so as to heal Africa from the wounds that it has faced from the hands of the oppressors. Before we look elsewhere for skills, South Africa should look to its refugees and asylum seekers, so as to help the oppressed and in so doing build up Africa as a whole.

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