Engaging Youth on Managing international Migration

_DSC0248Young people told us that they want a hand up and not a hand out. They told us that they do not want to be passive recipients of government interventions. But rather, they are ready to be active partners in youth development. They are not looking for special favours from government. But instead, they want government to create that enabling environment which creates opportunity for them to grab and take hold of as they steer themselves down the development trajectory.” Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Buti Manamela,

The remarks above were made during a Youth and Migration Dialogue at UNISA in Pretoria, on the 14th of August 25, 2015. The ACTION Support Centre was amongst the organizations that participated at this event, which was hosted by the Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba and the Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Buti Manamela. The dialogue was an opportunity for Home Affairs to engage with one of the most critical sectors of the society, the youth, and feed their perspectives into the policy development process. The Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba said that they were at advanced stages of developing a new Green Paper on International Migration, which would better equip South Africa to manage the opportunities and challenges presented by this inevitable phenomenon.

He also contributed that international migration is an essential part of the human experience. Throughout human history people have migrated voluntarily and involuntarily. There are as many as 250 million international migrants in the world today. However, he said that there was need to balance these perspectives and find the middle ground, which allows access to the global skills pool, while ensuring we do not overlook development of South African human capital. He added that international migrants were real people, with real potential to positively contribute to their destination societies and countries of origin, with real challenges and vulnerabilities, living and working side-by-side with citizens in every country in the world.

The Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Buti Manamela, as he gave an overview of the National Youth Policy 2020, emphasized the importance of youth in every dialogue. He reiterated that the National Youth Policy 2020 is about the youth, for the youth and by the youth of South Africa. Nothing for us without us. His call was rooted in the belief that young men and women have a critical role to play in their own development. Their views matter and their voices must be heard. In relation to the Youth and Migration Dialogue, the Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Buti Manamela, said that one of the priorities of the National Youth Policy 2020 was to facilitate nation building and social cohesion. Young people must know and understand the National symbols in fostering a common identity. Confronting racism, including xenophobia, in all its forms, utilizing social media platforms and other innovative campaigns and programmes initiated by youth in helping youth connect to each other, connect to their communities and connect to their country.

Since this was a dialogue, participants were divided into three groups, which deliberated on issues around both positive and negative experiences in relation to international migration; and also on how the discourse on nation building and social cohesion take international migration into consideration and aspirations for international migration. The contributions from the participants revealed that international migration was important as immigrants help to grow economies and create jobs through their contributions as purchasers of South African goods, entrepreneurs, employers, employees and taxpayers. A call was made to shift attitudes rooted in ignorance by government institutions such as at the border posts where there are inconsistencies with regards to the application of the laws and also at health care institutions, which sometimes deny treatment to migrants. One participant shared that as a refugee he was asking the Ministry of Home Affairs to provide more durable refugee papers as the current A4 paper easily gets torn, yet they are expected to carry it with them at all times for four years. The Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba emphasized the need for attitudes of humanist and Pan-Africanist solidarity, rooted in the values of Ubuntu, the Freedom Charter, and the Constitution.

Emphasis was made on reframing the nation-building debate, from one which seeks to unite Africans, coloureds, Indians and whites, to one which expands to include those new South Africans from all over the African continent and the world. There was also a call to recognize that our world is one based on vast, deep and complex human connections, and that those societies which harness these positively will be more stable, dynamic and prosperous than those which resist, distrust and turn away from these connections. The society was encouraged to acknowledge the enormous positive role that the immigrants play in societies on a daily basis, and not fixate on the few who break the law. The presentations reminded the media and the society that crime is no more wrong when the perpetrator is an immigrant, and no less wrong when the perpetrator is South African.

The Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Buti Manamela revealed that South African youth have often been criticized about their lack of knowledge of our continent and its people. He said that as we drive our intentional efforts of social cohesion, we have to reach out to and connect with migrant communities, particularly migrant youth living in South Africa. This connecting process provides much opportunity for intercultural learning and enhancing our understanding of our continent and its peoples. Through social cohesion efforts we can build bridges and establish bonds of African humanity in our communities. Young people must drive social cohesion to build communities that are healthy and thriving. This includes a sustained dialogue and partnership action with immigrants within our communities to ensure that they are well integrated and feel a sense of belonging. In doing this, young people can learn a lot about other African communities and cultures on our continent

The Minister of Home Affairs applauded the participants for engaging in a debate, which sought to refute the assumption that South Africans are not migrants. Instead it emphasized that a South African may one day live, work or study in another country, and would like to be treated humanely, welcomed warmly and integrated socially in destination countries. The different perspectives gathered from the meeting was going to inform South Africa’s immigration policy which would be about expressing the benefits of migration and their role in fostering social cohesion; and providing a perspective of SA business on benefits of migrants and opportunities for South African youth.