Refugees and asylum seekers are a link between South Africa and the rest of Africa, Vuyani Shwane, director of the Cape Town Refugee Centre, said in Joe Slovo Park this week.
Speaking at an event at the Joe Slovo Sport and Recreation Centre to celebrate different cultures, he said: “We want to acknowledge the rich diversity that refugees and asylum seekers bring to South Africa. It enriches us. Actually they integrate us to the African continent.”
“The diverse cultures, languages and religions should not be seen as impediments to national unity, given the statutory equality accorded to all citizens. Europe’s refugee crisis is not about economics. It is about culture. Culture is one of the biggest challenges in the acceptance and integration of refugees in Europe.”
The event, on 29 November, was attended by refugees, immigrants and South Africans, many wearing traditional clothes. Flags and food from different countries were on display. Dancers Abalaza from Philippi and Vuza Burundi band performed.
South African Joe Slovo Park resident Lwandiso Quvile said he blamed employers and labour brokers for causing fighting between South Africans and immigrants.
“By not giving equal job opportunities they [employers] create division between immigrants and South Africans,” said Quvile.
“As South Africans we regret the looting of Somali shops, chasing and killings of foreigners that took place few years ago. It was because of lack of understanding but now we understand these people are our brothers and sisters. During apartheid they supported us, now that we have peace in our country we should do the same,” he said.
Kakama Felly, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, said he had felt unwelcome during the violence in 2008. “But today I am happy to see many South Africans mingling with us.”
He said he shared a house with a Zimbabwean family and each accepted the other’s culture.
“We are brothers and sisters. I should be able to visit any African country and do business without fear,” Felly said.
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