Presentation made to STATSA Webinar, 18th March 2021.
To elaborate on the reopening of borders and how migrants must be treated, we are joined by Wits University Associate Professor and director of the African Centre for Migration and Society, Jo Vearey.
Wits University Associate Professor and director of the African Centre for Migration and Society, Jo Vearey, said non-citizens often experienced discrimination when trying to access public healthcare facilities. Vearey said another concern for this group would be documentation. “This is linked to issues around documentation and around misunderstandings between healthcare providers, particularly at the very front lines, receptionists and clerks for example. “This means an individual’s documentation can be misunderstood, demands are incorrectly made for documents, and this can also lead to further fears for someone who might have an irregular status and whether or not this could lead them into getting into trouble.” Different forms of documentation should be used for identification and not just an identity document, said Vearey. “We need to also ensure that we are not requesting frontline healthcare workers to work as immigration officials. This is something that we increasingly see globally, and it is something that there has been tension around in the South African context for a while.”
Jo Vearey, director of the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand, said one of the key issues linked to confidentiality, anonymity and the protection of people was to ensure that regardless of someone’s legal status when they come for the vaccine, this information is not fed to the Department of Home Affairs or the South African Police Service. “I’m thinking that we may need to return to the oversight role and the legal reviews that took place when the initial test and trace processes were rolled out earlier last year, with the ways that there were guarantees of data protection and ensuring that data was only linked to the traces processes … I am thinking we will need something similar.” Vearey said the blanket extension of asylum-seeking permits would need to be clearly communicated and everybody involved with the delivery of vaccinations should be made aware of that.
"I'm very concerned that we will see either formal or de facto discrimination against undocumented migrants when it comes to vaccine access," said Jo Vearey, director of the African Center for Migration and Society, a research institute.
VIDEO: Unfiltered: Coronavirus ACMS Associate Professor Jo Vearey was recently part of an interview panel on the SABC News Unfiltered talk show that discussed migration and Covid-19 in South Africa. You can watch the conversation here.
As Europe shuts down in response to the spread of COVID-19, other African countries are just beginning to grapple with the early signs of the pandemic. In this show, we discuss the COVID-19 response in South Africa, where an impending winter, a long history of the HIV-AIDS pandemic, and xenophobic attitudes are combining to generate some surprising and unexpected responses to the crisis. Leading Public Health specialist, Professor Jo Vearey chats to Abbey Steele and Darshan Vigneswaran. Click here to listen to the podcast.
Whether the apparent lack of consideration of foreign migrants is a result of their continued exclusion in public health planning, or due to the initial cases of Covid-19 identified in South Africa being imported from outside of the African continent, is irrelevant. Perhaps the tables have turned and recognition of the ways in which international tourist travel can be associated with the spread of infectious diseases has been brought to light, challenging and perhaps even silencing, at least for now, the pervasive blaming of foreign migrants for the health challenges faced in South Africa.
An effective response to South Africa’s coronavirus outbreak is an inclusive response.
This keeps migrants safe and it keeps everyone in South Africa healthy. It reduces the need for people to cross the border through irregular routes that may not only be dangerous but do not have the healthcare workers needed to screen people for the new virus.
Effective management of this public health crisis will involve all of us. This would truly be a case of, what Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi recently called, “international solidarity”.
To successfully address COVID-19, our public health programming must engage with everyone in South Africa, including refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants from elsewhere on the continent and beyond. We must use inclusive language in our messaging, and avoid the tendency of the state to refer to South African “citizens”—rather than to “all in South Africa”—in their COVID-19 communication. We must work collectively and without discrimination if we are to have any chance of slowing down the virus’s spread. This isn’t negotiable: it is a must in the context of COVID-19 if we are to support, as best we can, our already struggling public healthcare system (which, by the way, is not struggling due to the presence of foreign migrants in the country, in spite of popular opinion to the contrary).
Stop spreading dangerous lies. Foreign migrants are not root cause of SA’s problems Jo Vearey and Gina Snyman 2019-09-24 Originally published in City Press Foreign nationals protesting outside the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court after fellow migrants were arrested due to lack of documentation. Picture: Sandile Ndlovu No matter how inconvenient it may be for the … Continue reading Stop spreading dangerous lies. Foreign migrants are not root cause of SA’s problems
In sickness and in health: why the Minister of Home Affairs has a duty of care to tackle endemic anti-foreigner sentiment By Jo Vearey and Rebecca Walker• 26 September 2019 Originally published on Daily Maverick Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi is spreading the disease of xenophobia through his own unsubstantiated public comments directly blaming foreign … Continue reading In sickness and in health: why the Minister of Home Affairs has a duty of care to tackle endemic anti-foreigner sentiment