“Refugees are people like anyone else, like you and me. They led ordinary lives before becoming displaced, and their biggest dream is to be able to live normally again. On this World Refugee Day, let us recall our common humanity, celebrate tolerance and diversity and open our hearts to refugees everywhere.” – Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General
SALO’s refugee and migrants work:
As part of its principle of regional solidarity, SALO advocates at all levels to improve the position of migrants and refugees living in South Africa, as well as conditions for the poor and marginalised host communities within which many migrants live.
Of particular concern to SALO is the relationship between migrants from the region and South African citizens. As much as the South African government is taking a leading role in constructively engaging in conflicts on the continent, South Africa’s citizens are often not well informed about the history and present of other countries in Africa. Migrants are an important point of contact between ordinary citizens and the rest of the continent. Often, however, relations between migrants and citizens in South Africa has been characterised by conflict and discrimination rather than mutual exchange and learning.
A particularly egregious form of discrimination is xenophobic violence targeting foreign nationals. Since May 2008, when hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals were forcibly evicted from townships and informal settlements around the country and at least 62 people were killed, xenophobic violence has been in the public eye nationally, regionally and internationally, and high levels of violence against foreign migrants have continued since.
SALO works with South African communities through education campaigns on the nature and histories of conflicts in neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Swaziland, the DRC and Somalia. This is done through workshops and the presentation and discussion of videos about the conflicts. SALO has also produced a video about xenophobic violence.
The aims are to increase South African understanding of the reasons for migration from these countries as a means of increasing dialogue with migrants, as well as building a constituency for the South African government’s efforts to build peaceful resolutions to the crises in these countries.
SALO’s work to counter xenophobia and xenophobic violence, and to work particularly towards increasing the rights and voice of migrants and refugees from Zimbabwe and Swaziland, is supported by the Olof Palme International Centre among others. SALO works in partnership with a range of organisations including the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum; People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP); Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa.