South African Human Rights Commission, 15 October 1998.
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1. The movement of people within and across boundaries of states and communities has become a feature of modern societies. In the global society, states can no longer live in isolation from one another. The movement of people across boundaries has caused and continues to cause problems between nationals of recipient states and non-nationals because of competition for scarce resources, ignorance and prejudice. For states, migration raises questions of security, economic management and sovereignty.
2. Xenophobia is the deep dislike of non-nationals by nationals of a recipient state. Its manifestation is a violation of human rights. South Africa needs to send out a strong message that an irrational prejudice and hostility towards non-nationals is not acceptable under any circumstances. Criminal behaviour towards foreigners cannot be tolerated in a democratic society.
3. Our Constitution states that we seek to construct a society where "human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms" are abiding values. The Bill of Rights confers certain rights to "everyone". These are the rights to equality, human dignity, the right to life, freedom and security of the person, and the right not to be subject to slavery, servitude or forced labour.
4. Our international obligations have both a legal and a moral force. South Africa is party to international human rights and humanitarian treaties, especially on refugees and asylum-seekers.
5. No one, whether in this country legally or not, can be deprived of his or her basic or fundamental rights and cannot be treated as less than human. The mere fact of being an alien or being without legal status does not mean that one is fair game to all manner of exploitation or violence or to criminal, arbitrary or inhuman treatment. Foreigners in our midst are entitled to the support and defence of our law and constitution.
6. Despite the above provisions, in practice there is an increasing level of Xenophobia in our country. Xenophobia is thus a blight on our democratic values and should be eradicated.
In this regard, the South African Human Rights Commission and other stakeholders from government and non-governmental sectors held a one day consultative conference to discuss the increasing rate of Xenophobia as a violation of human rights and our constitutional values. The Conference was held at the Johannesburg Metropolitan Civil Centre, Braamfontein on Thursday, 15 October 1998.
7. The Consultative Conference adopted the following Programme of Action:
There should be a co-ordinated approach between various government departments to address Xenophobia and the manifestations thereof.
Migration and refugee policies should be clear, coherent, implementable and reflect South Africas constitutional and international obligations.
South Africa should take steps to sign the International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and other relevant treaties. This should be done in order to signal South Africas commitment to abide by international standards in her treatment of resident non-nationals.
Factors that encourage the manifestation of Xenophobia such as poverty, unemployment, crime, corruption in the immigration and police services and ignorance about the role and significance of non-nationals in our country should be addressed. The rights and responsibilities of non-nationals should also be taken into account.
As part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, South Africa should play her part in the development of the economic policies in the region in order to enhance peace and prosperity in the neighbouring states and ensure opportunities for betterment of life for its citizens.
A nation-wide public awareness and information campaign on racism and Xenophobia and its effects should be organised.
Public service officials should undergo training on racism and Xenophobia, on the theory and practice of migration and refugee policies and on the understanding of international human rights and humanitarian instruments as well as develop an awareness of the social and political situation in the countries responsible for the influx of migrants to South Africa.
South African are urged to practice African cultural values like ubuntu ("hospitality and solidarity") in their relations with others in their midst.
The South African Human Rights Commission, assisted by a steering group drawn from the departments of Home Affairs, Justice and provincial Safety and Security, are mandated to monitor the implementation of these proposals.
15 October 1998