More than 100 refugees, community activists, non-profit organisation members and officials from various government departments participated in an anti-xenophobia peace march in Buffalo City yesterday morning.
Waving flags from different African countries, and dressed in white T-shirts to symbolise peace, the crowd marched from Buffalo City College in Lukin Road to hand over a memorandum at the Department of Home Affairs in Fleet Street.
They protested against the department’s refusal to extend permits to foreign nationals, denial of permanent citizenship, withholding of permits for foreign nationals to run shops and the failure of the state to uphold laws which protect refugees from discrimination and xenophobic attacks.
Tendai Gumbie, who works for the Agency for Refugee Education, Skills Training and Advocacy (Aresta) said the peaceful march was to raise awareness on xenophobia and the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa.
“Today’s march was against race discrimination and xenophobic attacks in the whole country.
“We handed over a memorandum which listed some of our grievances as refugees and asylum seekers.
“These are largely policy issues which we hope the department will take seriously,” said Gumbie.
Refugee community leader Felix Mukumba said they were also marching in support of foreign nationals who had come under heavy xenophobic attacks in other parts of the country.
“We face so many challenges with our permits and this was a cry to the departments of home affairs to reevaluate their policies, because we are suffering,” said Mukumba.
Mukumba said their permits had to be renewed every four months and once they had expired, they had to be renewed within seven days.
He said they were forced to travel to Johannesburg with their families regardless of which city or province they were in. The costs were a burden because most of the refugees were selfemployed.
East London Home Affairs regional manager Fanisile Spayile said most of the issues raised were policy matters out of his hands and were not operational matters, but he had forwarded the memorandum to provincial management, who would then take the matter to national head office. —