Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says South Africa’s contribution to the protection of refugees is not merely borne out of gratitude for humankind’s efforts, but is borne out of humaneness and conviction in the ethos of human rights and freedoms.
“We know that in some instances we are found wanting, incapable of fulfilling our own best intentions because of lack of capacity and sometimes inadequate policy responses. But we do our best under the circumstances and our efforts thus far to host and provide protection to refugees have demonstrated our sincerest political will,” Gigaba said.
Speaking at the World Refugee Day Commemoration at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg, Gigaba thanked South Africans for the generosity they have demonstrated over the years as they hosted over 126 000 refugees recorded since 2009 and many more asylum seekers.
It is estimated that more than 68 million people are refugees.
“This affirms not only our continued gratitude to peoples of the world, particularly those of Africa, who hosted fellow South Africans as refugees during the apartheid-colonial era, but it also affirms our continued conviction in the principle of human and African solidarity.
“We need global leadership and vision based on our common humanity, respect for international obligations, and the desire to create a better world.
“Hardening official attitudes to refugees by governments, and in the political discourse, of several wealthy countries in the global North should concern us all,” Gigaba said.
World Refugee Day is observed annually on June 20. This is the 18th year of the event, run by the United Nations Refugee Agency, to state that the world supports and stands with refugees.
The event is about raising global awareness of global responsibility for refugees.
Promoting human rights
Advocate Frank Ntwali, representing the refugee community in South Africa, thanked the South African government for welcoming refugees.
“It is my pleasure to honour this country for welcoming us. We always find it hard as refugees to survive in other countries,” Ntwali said.
Ntwali said World Refugee Day must be used to mourn all the refugees who have been killed.
“We are concerned about assassinations in our countries, we hope this will come to an end.”
Ntwali said South Africa is a country where people can express their views, irrespective of who they are.
“I appreciate what the Department of Home Affairs is doing to assist us. We are not here to become permanent refugees,” he said.
Nardos Bekele-Thomas, a UN representative, encouraged refugees to support each other.
“I would like to thank the government of South Africa for hosting us, I have so much respect for South Africa,” Bekele-Thomas said.
She commended South Africa for promoting human rights.
Today’s World Refugee Day commemoration started with a 5km fun walk led by Home Affairs Deputy Minister Fatima Chohan.
Taking part in the fun walk were various representatives of the various ethnic refugee groups in South Africa.
Malcom Archio, a refugee from Ethiopia, said he would like to return to his country of birth.
“The South African government is taking good care of us. We want the government to intervene and bring stability in our country. We want to go back to our country,” Archio said. – SAnews.gov.za