South Africa Could Grant a 6 Months Work Permit to Zimbabweans: A Possible First Step Towards the Respect of Migrants’ Rights

Press release

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), together with its member organisation in Zimbabwe, Zimrights, welcome the declaration of the South African authorities according to which a six month work permit could be granted to Zimbabwean citizens. Our organisations are now waiting for the South African authorities to clarify as soon as possible how and in which cases this work permit will be applied.

According to the South African Ministry of Home Affairs’ declarations, Zimbabwean workers could be authorised to stay and work legally in South Africa for six months, a measure which, if implemented, will be most welcomed considering the current political and economic situation in Zimbabwe where about four out five people are estimated to be out of work. It seems that this permit will also give migrants the rights to healthcare and education.

"We welcome these declarations which are consistent with the recommendations of our last report and which constitute a first step towards the respect of migrants’ rights in South Africa. Indeed, if implemented and well applied, we can expect that these measures will contribute to curb the human rights violations perpetrated against migrants, in particular against undocumented ones", declared Arnold Tsunga, FIDH’s Vice-President and member of Zimrights, who undertook a fact-finding mission on migrants in South Africa.

As growing domestic and international concerns have been expressed regarding the human rights situation of undocumented and other vulnerable migrants in South Africa, FIDH conducted an international fact-finding mission in 2007 to examine the legal and policy framework applying to their entry and stay as well as their working and living conditions. The report, entitled "Surplus People? Undocumented and Other Vulnerable Migrants in South Africa" emphasizes the most worrying human rights violations perpetrated against migrants, notably exploitation at work and poor labour conditions due to their precarious legal conditions.

The report concluded that those human rights violations were not only the result of the South African migration policy geared towards security concerns and population control but also to the prevalent xenophobic feelings, which culminated in May 2008 with violent attacks perpetrated against migrants, mostly Zimbabweans and Mozambicans [1].

FIDH and Zimrights call on the South African authorities to clarify as soon as possible how and in which cases this work permit will be applied. Our organisations also recommend to the South African authorities to further reinforce their human-rights-based legal framework in order to prevent and redress human rights violations against migrants. The authorities also need to provide widespread training on migrant’s rights and against xenophobia to police services, immigration services, public health and education services and local administrations.

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