Violent attacks on migrants in Southern Africa cause for concern

By Memory Chamisa

CALLS have been made for SADC national human rights institutions to dialogue on the common human rights issues affecting migrants in the different Southern African countries,

The Regional Meeting for Chairpersons of the Human Rights Commission in the SADC Region which witnessed over 10 countries in attendance ended in Harare this Friday, with emphases being put on protecting migrants, especially now that xenophobic attacks have become prevalent in South Africa.

Chairperson of the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions and Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Chairperson Dr Elasto Mugwadi castigated the violence against migrants in Southern Africa.

“As NHRIs from the SADC Region, we should be concerned about the situation of migrants considering the numerous reports of human rights abuses against them. For instance, xenophobia which has been repeatedly reported in Southern Africa should be a thing of the past in all free democracies. Foreign nationals in our respective countries should be able to enjoy their rights including the sacrosanct, right to life, the absolute freedom from torture and other cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, right to personal security and right to dignity.

“Enjoyment of human rights by migrants is dependent on the recognition and realisation that migrants too are humans and have rights. This has been the basis for the regional and international instruments that we are all familiar with. NHRIs have a duty to address any violations of human rights preferably including the rights of migrants of course,” he said.

South Africa Human Rights Chairperson Advocate Bongani Majola reiterated the need for SADC leaders to protect migrants in their countries through coordinated actions.

“There are ongoing activities at our countries’ borders to combat criminal activities such as unauthorised entry and smuggling of goods and people. We continue to encourage law enforcement agencies to continue cooperation in efforts aimed at combating cross border criminality.  Indeed, the migrants are facing a number of human rights challenges that are affecting their well-being. SADC leaders need to play a pivotal role in ensuring that the rights of migrants are protected in the region,” he noted.

The meeting ended with recommendations to interrogate the drivers of violence against migrants and to also come up with strategies to protect foreign nationals migrating among SADC member states.