City to regulate migrant shelters

2010-09-14 20:06

Johannesburg – The City of Johannesburg will be regulating the provision of shelter to internal and foreign migrants to avoid "unsafe" situations, mayor Amos Masondo said on Tuesday.

"The lack of managed shelter in the city has, in the past, led to undesirable situations such as that which existed at the Central Methodist Church in the Johannesburg CBD," he told reporters.

The church housed hundreds of Zimbabwean refugees, and was almost closed down because of unhygienic conditions and overcrowding, amid reports of rapes and child abuse there.

The mayor was speaking at a meeting of the Johannesburg Migration Advisory Committee, made up of representatives from departments such as home affairs, housing and social development, as well as representatives from institutions such as Lawyers for Human Rights and the Africa Diaspora Forum.

The meeting addressed reports of xenophobic violence after the Soccer World Cup.

Masondo detailed the city's reaction to these reports, which included the establishment of the Joint Operations Committee.

This dealt with temporary shelters, logistics, emergency relief and security for migrants. It also launched a series of community dialogues which addressed "widely-held... erroneous claims that migrants are crowding out local communities or taking away economic opportunities," Masondo said.

Accurate statistics

He said the city would be setting up a data collection system on migrants moving in and out of the city, and would register properties where migrants were being housed.

"(This) will enable the city to collect accurate statistics... for effective development purposes."

The city would "monitor, through, law enforcement, to ensure that such facilities keep the required registers... and that public-health by-laws are adhered to.

"Relevant local and international organisations (will be consulted) to determine the state of these housing facilities."

A credible system of registration would "eradicate the exploitation of migrants by unscrupulous landlords".

Masondo finished his presentation by saying: "In our view, the migrants can play a very important role as active participants in their own development."