(Johannesburg) – The south Africa government Covid-19 Aid programs, including food packages, have ignored refugees and asylum seekers. They include many lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people who have fled to South Africa to avoid persecution.
The government must take urgent steps to facilitate support, including from donors, for refugees and asylum seekers with little access to food and other basic needs during ongoing national lockouts.
“The Ramaphosa government must ensure access to food for thousands of refugees and asylum seekers, or say that it cannot meet needs and find donors to step in and provide assistance,” said Lord Mavhinga, director of south Africa at Human Rights Watch. “The government is ignoring the plight of refugees and asylum seekers who are currently locked up in their homes and cannot work to meet their own needs.”
Undocumented migrants and asylum seekers live on economic margins, a situation that is exacerbated by government tightening measures. After receiving numerous requests from refugees and asylum seekers, Human Rights Watch raised the issue with the South African Human Rights Commission, which confirmed receiving similar reports and urged the authorities to ensure that everyone in South Africa could realize their rights.
On May 12, 2020, the rapporteur for the South African Commission on Human Rights and the People of South Africa, Solomon Ayele Dersso, sent urgent appeal to the government to protect the rights of vulnerable groups, including refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in the context of locking up.
South Africa is a common destination for LGBT people who have fled their countries of origin because of persecution based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. That Amendment to the 2008 Refugee Law expressly includes persecution based on sexual orientation as a basis for seeking asylum in South Africa. Thirty-three of 70 countries that criminalizing same-sex sexual behavior like adults is in Africa. Across the continent, discriminatory laws and hostile social attitudes have led many LGBT people to leave their home countries – including many from Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Nigeria – and to travel to South Africa, often facing many opportunities, to seeking asylum and a better life.
Victor Chikalogwe, director of the LGBT refugee advocacy group, People Against Suffering, Oppression, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP), said that this locking had made life very difficult for many migrants, refugees, and undocumented LGBT asylum seekers, because they were unable to . to work in informal trade that has supported it, including restaurants, bars or sex work. They do not entitled to receivegovernment social grants or food packages, which are only distributed to those who have a South African identity card and Social Security card.
Thomars Shamuyarira, a transgender man from Zimbabwe who is director of The Fruit Basket, a Johannesburg-based group that supports African LGBT migrants, said that the lock-up of Covid-19 has had a major impact on LGBT refugees and asylum seekers who do not have access to informal work, food, medicine and accommodation.
The Human Rights watch spoke with a gay man from the Democratic Republic of Congo who fled to South Africa after a targeted attack based on his sexual orientation by armed groups in South Kivu. He said he had tried unsuccessfully since 2014 to obtain refugee status and that locking made it increasingly difficult for him to survive from one day to the next.
A gay man who fled Zimbabwe in 2014 after his family members threatened to kill him when they discovered his sexual orientation said that he could not do sex work because he was locked up, therefore could not pay rent or buy food.
On March 24, the African Commission on Human Rights and Society expressed concern about vulnerability refugees and asylum seekers under Covid-19 regulations and discuss a letter to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who currently serves as Chair of the African Union, urging the South African government to adequately address human rights issues in its response to Covid-19. This must include ensuring that undocumented refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa have access to basic services.
South African authorities must ensure that essential goods and services are provided to all people in need without discrimination, Human Rights Watch said. Special arrangements must be made to protect the rights of vulnerable groups, including refugees, asylum seekers, and homeless people, who usually do not have access to basic goods, including food, drinking water and washing – and health care.
National lock-ups will be most effective if they are carried out not only in accordance with the law, but also in line with the fulfillment of the government’s obligations to provide essential goods and services to vulnerable members of the community. Services must be available to all those in need, including those who live in areas under restrictions on movement or under quarantine, those infected with Covid-19, and marginalized groups such as refugees, migrants, and people with disabilities. The government must take special steps to protect women and girls from physical and sexual abuse and exploitation and provide timely assistance to victims.
“South Africa must make special efforts to protect the most vulnerable in the country and ensure that refugees and asylum seekers are not ignored or forgotten,” Mavhinga said. “The authorities must act and seek donor support to prevent a future humanitarian disaster.”
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