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).
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”.
"SRHR-HIV Knows No Borders: Improving SRHR-HIV Outcomes for Migrants, Adolescents and Young People and Sex Workers in Migration-Affected Communities in Southern Africa 2016 - 2020"
In July 2016, I was interviewed on Ubuntu Radio about the need for migration-aware HIV responses in southern Africa. Ntokozo Yingwana (also of maHp) wrote a great piece for The Conversation about this.