Integration of immigrants in South Africa-Lessons from Morocco

By A.B. Kafui Kanyi, Morocco-Courtesy: FAAPA

Rabat (Morocco) April 29, – Nelson Mandela once said “our human compassion binds us – not in pity or patronisingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future”.

However, today’s South Africa, the rainbow nation appears to be slipping down the slope following recent xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals.

The South African Army has been deployed to volatile areas to prevent further attacks on foreign nationals and prominent South African citizens and statesmen continue to distance themselves from the attacks on poor immigrants.

Organised groups and communities are also staging peaceful “South Africa anti-xenophobic” demonstrations to ostensibly save the face of the rainbow flag.

Irrespective of these efforts, the cruel attack leading to the deaths of 10 people and still counting, recalls memories of most distasteful aspects of the apartheid where countries on the African continent hosted their fellow South Africans as refugees.

Indeed some say the attacks simply depicts South Africa as a weak state, despite its perception as a continental powerhouse, as Ahmed Eljechtimi, an International Journalist and Security Expert, says “a state with no social cohesion is a weak one and that is what South Africa is showing now”.

The rainbow nation has failed in resolving issues concerning the living conditions of its people and has also fallen short of protecting refugees and other foreign nationals as expected.

Job Take-over

The “job-takeover” claim, which is the argument of many South Africans who says African migrants had come for their jobs leading to the mayhem of looting, burning of shops, barricaded roads, and the use of stones and knifes against fellow Africans, is untenable.

It is true that many countries reserve specific areas of their local economy for citizens but available statistics do not support claims that immigrants steal jobs from South African nationals.

Dr Zaheera Jinnah, an Anthropologist and Researcher, said “new data, some of which has yet to be published, presents a far more nuanced picture of what it means to be a migrant from Africa or Asia and trying to make a living in South Africa”.

Morocco

While victims of the fatal attack gather the pieces for a new beginning, Morocco in the extreme north of the Continent, in a stark contrast offers an example of what the state should do to facilitate integration of immigrants.

The late King Hassan II described Morocco like a tree whose roots are in Africa with leaves in Europe.

This philosophical description of the country as a crossroad for many cultures indirectly oriented the citizenry on the need to accommodate all human races including refugees and immigrants.

This consciousness resulted in Morocco developing social and legal policies to literally make the country safe for all including strangers.

King Mohammed VI in 2013 announced a new immigration policy that regularises illegal African and European immigrants, allowing them work permits and the choice to make Morocco a possible permanent settlement.

More than 27,000 immigrants were given resident permits in 2014, a good number of them gainfully employed in the country with some operating retail businesses and others in skilled jobs.

An intervention project, Moroccan Association to Support and Promote Small Businesses (AMAPPE), was also launched to empower and support immigrants to set up small and micro scale enterprises to enhance their lots.

This saw the opening of cosmetic shops, food joints and hairdressing salons by some foreign nationals with support from AMAPPE and funding from the United Nations.

“Moroccan society is becoming aware that there are foreign immigrants that need to work, live with dignity and have same rights to housing and healthcare as Moroccans,” Makhon, the AMAPPE Director said.

A few immigrants, who still remain in the street corners, especially women and children are often given assistance by non-governmental organisations and institutions.

Incidentally, some unemployed Moroccans are easily spotted in the streets begging for food and money but these still show some warmth and respect to strangers and foreigners and there is no hostility.

Emma Adenula, 29, a native of a West African State, who sells books and some accessories in the central business district of Rabat, described Morocco as the safest place for any foreigner.

There is spirit of solidarity, cohesion, mutual respect and friendship in the country, irrespective of socio-economic, ethnic and religious differences. It is extremely difficult to differentiate between people from different ethnic and religious sects.

Perhaps this human spirit of “accepting the other person” and tolerance are key factors which came to play in making Morocco a success model for the Arab World which has not been affected by the upheavals of the Arab Spring.

South Africa must go back to the drawing board. There must be a national re-orientation for the current generation to understand the history of the country and how its success is linked to the success of other Africa nationals living there.

The government must consider a subject for basic school students to develop the sense of fellow feeling, just as Zambia did in the late 1970s. It must have a re-look at its educational structure, improve job skills of its people and help them develop the willing spirit to work.

That way, it could deal with the deep rooted “anti-African” sentiment, which is fast becoming synonymous with the country, once defended by all Africans during the apartheid era.

The spirit behind the rainbow colours must be brought back. Other Heads of States must come on board and help South Africa stand again, knowing that South Africa’s shame, is Africa’s shame.

GNA

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