20 June 2012

20 June marks World Refugee Day

AL2446_4977_The SAHA Poster CollectionThemed, ‘Restoring Hope' for the year 2012, World Refugee Day was adopted by the United   Nations General Assembly in 2000 and implemented in 2001. The aim was to honour the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homelands under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.

Over and above, this day is intended to create awareness about the rights of refugees, to promote tolerance towards them and to initiate social reforms which will improve the way any given country deals with such people.

Once the public's attention is drawn to the plight of the millions of refugees worldwide, it is hoped that all abuses, such as xenophobic attacks channelled towards them, will be ceased.

South Africa is home to many refugees from various countries, especially Zimbabwe. The Department of Home Affairs' 2010/2011 annual report recorded nearly 280 000 Zimbabweans who had come forward to apply for relevant documents under their new project dedicated to document Zimbabweans as part of a parliamentary decision, in order to address the backlog at Home Affairs.

Expressing the importance of this undertaking, the Home Affairs report states, "The number of foreigners who are undocumented or who have fraudulent documents impacts negatively on security and social stability and leads to corruption and human rights abuses."

In May 2008, South Africa experienced a spate of xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals, which swept across the country. This left 62 people dead, 21 of whom were South Africans.

Through various collective initiatives by civil society organisations, government and activists, the prevalence has been minimised to an extent. However, some believe there is still tension and more is needed to be done to promote tolerance towards refugees.

SAHA has materials relating to refugee-related issues in the following collections:

AL2878 The Freedom of Information Collection

AL3183 The Lawyers for Human Rights Collection
AL3265 The Zenzo Nkobi Photographic Collection
AL3110 The CSVR TRC Collection