Foreign nationals are not pressurising public services - panel defends foreigners in SA

2019-04-10 20:02
(Photo: iStock)

(Photo: iStock)

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Claims that foreign nationals who migrated to South Africa are responsible for the pressure on public services are not correct, Professor Loren Landau said on Wednesday.

Landau is the director of the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Landau, Scalabrini Centre head of advocacy Sally Hurt, refugee rights lawyer Popo Mfubu, and Scalabrini Centre advocacy and child protection officer Sindisiwe Moyo participated in a panel discussion chaired by Daily Maverick journalist Rebecca Davis at the Scalabrini Centre.

The centre is a stone's throw from Parliament in Cape Town's CBD.

Landau said South Africa was the number one destination for African migrants globally. Almost half of the African migrants entering South Africa end up in Gauteng and the Western Cape was the second most popular destination.  

He said despite this, there are far fewer foreign nationals in the country than what most people presume. 

"In most of South Africa, there is almost nobody," he said. He added that it was not correct that poor foreigners were responsible for using all the services.

Hurt said immigration was definitely an election issue. She said it was irresponsible to claim that migrants were burdening the public health system and added that there were no statistics to show who received public health services – whether they were locals or foreigners.

According to Hurt, foreign nationals are "really easy scapegoats when you fail to do proper resource planning".

Mfubu said South Africa has a very good legal refugee framework and the Refugee Act of 1998 provides for very liberal and progressive access to services for refugees.

However, the implementation is "quite terrible", Mfubu said. The Department of Home Affairs is closing some of its offices for asylum seekers and rejecting most applications. 

He said subsequent amendments, which are yet to take effect, watered down the act. 

"Simply trying to create a legal wall around South Africa is not going to work."

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