Project offers hope to refugees

UNHCR representative Leonard Zulu, left, and IRSA CEO Yusuf Mohamed sign a memorandum of understanding for the project.

Refugees and asylum seekers have fresh hope of making futures for themselves in the country with the launch of a project by Islamic Relief South Africa (IRSA) and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

The project, Assistance, Protection, Education and Self-Reliance for Refugees in South Africa, was launched in Lansdowne on Thursday March 25 and attended by IRSA and UNHCR members and the 60 refugees and asylum seekers who will be participating in it.

Mohamud Nor Hassan and his wife, Anab Mukhtar Jama, from Somalia, are participants in the refugee and asylum seekers project.

IRSA chief executive officer Yusuf Mohamed says the project will seek to address the concerns of migrants.

“Forced migration is a big challenge and the need for sustainable intervention which goes beyond emergency relief is of paramount importance.”

The project would focus on education, skills development, advocacy, and the provision of community services, while getting government, organisations and communities to work together to make life easier for migrants, he said.

UNHCR representative Leonard Zulu said there were 270 000 refugees in South Africa. Many of those who worked as informal traders had lost their businesses overnight because of the Covid-19 lockdowns, he said.

“We saw the solidarity of the South African people and even refugees helping other refugees, helping each other during this difficult time,” he said.

The project would help refugees look after themselves. “Promoting self reliance will give the refugees dignity, because they will be able to take care of themselves and their families independently,” he said.

IRSA regional service coordinator Levona Van Aarde said the project would give refugees food vouchers so they could take part in an entrepreneurship programme.

IRSA regional service coordinator Levona van Aarde talks about the project.

Zabiba Kurirwa, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo said the project sounded interesting and she hoped it would offer real opportunities. “I am hoping to get employment in the future,” she said.

Mohamud Nor Hassan, from Somalia, works as an e-hailing driver. He said he hoped to learn more about IT and improve his English through the project. “I am also looking forward to learning English much better,” he said.

Nurudean Ssempa, director of the Muslim Refugee Association of South Africa (MRASA), said his organisation had helped to pick the 60 people who would participate in the project.