Issued by the Department of Home Affairs, 19 August 2008
We, representatives of Government, academics and civil society, including organisations representing immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, participating at this Social Dialogue on Promoting Tolerance through Diversity convened by the Department of Home Affairs in Pretoria, South Africa, from 18-19 August 2008:
Noting the previous efforts by the National Task Team of Government to address the challenge of xenophobic violence which happened in South Africa in May; Recognising the Social Dialogue as an important platform for all stakeholders to engage in frank and constructive exchanges about the important challenge of international migration as well as the recent sad and tragic incidents of violence in our country which affected migrants / foreign nationals and citizens alike; Noting that international migration is an urgent challenge affecting not just South Africa, but the rest of Africa as well as the world, and properly harnessed, it can promote development and enhance human understanding and diversity; Acknowledging that citizens and migrants / foreign nationals are entitled to rights and have responsibilities in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and international legal instruments; Further acknowledging that xenophobia, racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance towards migrants / foreign nationals is a global phenomenon that poses a threat to the construction of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and inclusive society and to the fulfilment of our legal obligations towards migrants / foreign nationals; Noting that South Africa was founded upon principles of Constitutionally-guaranteed human rights, we emphasised the need to promote respect for human life, the rule of Social dialogue on promotion of tolerance and diversity in SA law and international and African human solidarity among all our citizens and immigrants, insist that there can be no justification for violent attacks on any person, regardless of his or her nationality and status in South Africa.
The Social Dialogue was enriched by the views of the traditional and religious leaders, as well as affected communities and immigrants from the Western Cape and Gauteng. NGOs involved in the upholding the rights of immigrant and refugee communities also enhanced the delegates understanding of the challenges ahead, and made useful proposals about how better to manage international migration in South Africa. The Social Dialogue was critical of the role of some media, both generally concerning how they present international migration to the public, and specifically during the outbreaks of xenophobic violence in May. It was felt that some media contribute towards the negative stereotyping of foreign nationals, potentially fuelling xenophobic sentiments. It is important that the media to be more informed and sensitive towards immigrants so that it can play a positive role in informing and educating the public. The Social Dialogue further discussed the challenges and opportunities presented to the government by international migration. All participants agreed that this challenge does not affect the Department of Home Affairs alone, and that the management thereof should not be left solely to this department. All government departments, at all levels, must play a role, under the leadership of the Department of Home Affairs. Of course, the Department of Home Affairs must step up and enhance its own capacity to fulfil its responsibilities towards immigrants.
The Social Dialogue committed itself to:
Intensify public education and awareness in order to make South Africans aware of the actual challenge and extent of international migration, the rights and responsibilities of migrants, and to educate them to appreciate the contribution of migrants towards South Africa’s economic development as well as cultural diversity; Social dialogue on promotion of tolerance and diversity in SA. Educate the immigrants about their rights and responsibilities in the host country so that while they pursue their rights, they also adhere to the rule of law; Strengthen stakeholder partnerships to ensure that the management of migration is not confined to government alone; Uphold our obligations towards migrants / foreign nationals in accordance with domestic laws and international conventions;
Combat all manifestations of violence, xenophobia, racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance towards migrants / foreign nationals in South Africa in accordance with the provisions of the Final Declaration of the World Conference on Xenophobia, Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance; and to participate in the follow-up conference of the World Conference on Xenophobia, Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance scheduled for 2009; Educate political, religious and community leaders at all levels to be responsible and sensitive in their statements and conduct in order to contribute to forging strong relations and trust between the immigrant communities and local communities in which they settle; Convene a follow up dialogue involving relevant government departments and representatives of all the three tiers, the trade unions, business, NGO’s, academics and other interested stakeholders.
The Social Dialogue believes that the recent violence against foreign nationals and South African citizens has provided an opportunity to engage all South Africans in public discourse on a grand scale about international migration and, particularly, the brutality of xenophobia. We agreed that this discourse needs to be intensified and replicated at local levels as a means to engaging communities in robust discussion of the challenges involved.