Regional human rights groups have called on Southern African Development Committee (SADC) countries to seriously consider setting up an Advisory Law Reform Commission to develop model laws on the rights of migrants that influence the national laws of member states.
This is contained in the Harare Declaration, signed by chairpersons of National Human Rights Institutions from the region at the end of a regional meeting on violence against immigrants in the SADC region held in Harare, Zimbabwe from August 25 to 26, 2023.
The meeting was attended by Chairpersons of National Human Rights Institutions (HRI’s) from Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The meeting was held at the back of a rise in xenophobic attacks on foreign immigrants in South Africa, especially Africans from the Southern African region, who native South Africans accuse of taking their jobs.
There are an estimated 3.6 million migrants in South Africa, with around 70% of them being from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho and the other 30% being from Malawi, Namibia, eSwatini, Pakistan, Nigeria and other countries.
But the SADC human rights institutions expressed concern over the escalating violence against migrants in Southern Africa and committed to come up with strategies and a plan of action with themes that include strategies that help address root causes of violence against migrants and lead to the respect, promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights among others.
“Noting with grave concern the different forms of violence against migrants in Southern African Countries; Reaffirming our commitment to the purposes and principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human rights, the African Charter on human and Peoples’ rights and the SADC Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons.
“Affirming that xenophobia, discrimination and all forms of violence against migrants constitute a negation of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965); International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (1990); African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention, 1951); New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (2016); Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (2018);
“The Convention concerning Migration for Employment (Revised), 1949; AU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (1969); African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (Kampala Convention, 2009); Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Relating to Free Movement of Persons , Right of Residence and Right of Establishment (2018) and Migration Policy Framework for Africa (African Union, 2018);
“Dedicating ourselves to combating the scourge of xenophobia and all forms of violence against migrants; Joining in the spirit of commitment to equality, justice and dignity; Hereby resolve to establish an association of National Human Rights Institutions in the SADC region to consider human rights issues peculiar to the region,” read the declaration.
The meeting also resolved to come up with strategies related to law reform and access to justice, which included access to courts, legal aid, access to remedies; victim protection and assistance; punishment and rehabilitation of offenders.
The human rights institutions also urged SADC member states to implement national, regional and international laws that protect the rights of migrants and to create awareness of the human rights and obligations of migrants and host communities in SADC states.
They further committed to carry out investigations and recommend appropriate remedies for victims of violence against migrants to respective SADC member states and continuously monitor the situation of migrants in Southern Africa to detect and address any forms of violence against migrants.
More than 200 000 Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa possibly face violent deportation at the expiry of their ZEP permits at the end of the year after authorities in the country said they would not renew the permits.
Vigilante groups in the country have launched anti-foreigners’ campaigns in the last few days where they are burning down houses and attacking foreigners, regardless of their status, which has left scores dead and hundreds of others homeless.