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South Africa: Archbishop Calls for End to Migrant Discrimination

‘Too many migrants are exploited, especially those migrants and refugees who do not have proper documents.’

“Too many migrants are exploited, especially those migrants and refugees who do not have proper documents,” said Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg, in his speech for the celebrations in South Africa for the 50th Anniversary of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), held in Durban. His remarks were reported on February 26, 2019, by Fides News Agency.

Referring to undocumented migrants living in South Africa, the Archbishop said: “Many receive slave wages and are continuously threatened with arrest. Some are victims of corrupt police officials. And, as if that was not enough, many have been victims of xenophobia. When local communities go on a service delivery protest, they take out their anger on foreign nationals. They harass them, attack them, destroy and loot their shops. It is most unfair for migrants and refugees to be made scapegoats for the glaring shortcomings of the government and local authorities.”

Archbishop Tlhagale acknowledged that there is a crime problem linked to migration that exacerbates the minds of the population and risks criminalizing all the members of the foreign communities present in South Africa. Among the migrants “there are those who are heavily involved in drug trafficking. Drugs have become a scourge in some of our communities. Thus the palpable anger of the communities is understandable. There are those migrants who are involved in robberies and human trafficking. These aberrations by some should not lead to the wholesale condemnation of the entire community of migrants and refugees.

“The grave sin we commit in our times is the sin of indifference to the plight of others. We walk on the other side of the road like the Priest and the Levite. We do not want to see, we do not want to know. We carry around with us hearts of stone. We measure the worth of persons by applying the misguided criteria of race, nationality, culture, and religion. When we discriminate against our fellow-Africans, we betray our own humanity; we diminish our own honor and the worth as human persons. We obscure the image of God imprinted on our faces and in our hearts. The fact is, we are creatures that find our perfection only by establishing a relationship with others. It is this mutuality that makes us truly human. It is a mutual relationship that cuts across man-made boundaries, geographical frontiers, cultural fault-lines, and racial divides. Person to person relationships irrespective of origin, language, race or culture, are generally warm and pleasant. Relationships are poisoned by prejudice that is embedded in society.”

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