PROTECT Expert Forum 26 November

International protection and the Global Compacts in the time of Covid-19: lessons and challenges from South(ern) Africa

Forum title: International protection and the Global Compacts in the time of Covid-19: lessons and challenges from South(ern) Africa

When: 26 November 2020, 1:30 – 3:15 pm UTC+2

Where: Online

Hosts: University of Witwatersrand

Program


1.30: Welcome and opening by Associate Professor Jo Vearey, Director of African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS), Wits University

1.35: Introduction to the PROTECT project by Hakan G. Sicakkan, Principal Investigator of PROTECT, the University of Bergen

1.45: International protection, the global compacts and Covid-19 in South(ern) Africa: a conversation

We invite questions and comments from participants in the ‘chat box’ during the panel. These will be used to guide the discussion.

3.10 Closing comments by Associate Professor Jo Vearey

Background


The extensive negotiations of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) between 2015 and 2018 were met with some apprehension in South Africa and the SADC region. This was due to perceived Northern bias in the negotiations and an apparent focus on prevention and localised solutions, over supporting migrant movement over longer distances. Nevertheless, since their adoption in 2018, commentators and advocates have begun to explore how best to use the political space the two Compacts have created to improve protection for refugees and migrants in southern Africa and the continent more broadly. For instance, promoting the possible harmony between the GCR’s key focus on encouraging equitable burden and responsibly sharing and attempts to improve implementation of Article II(4) of the 1969 OAU Refugee  Convention, which promotes African solidarity and international cooperation.

2020 has however brought new and unexpected challenges, notably with the outbreak of the COVID-19 global pandemic. This has exacerbated existing protection issues while also creating new ones for refugees and migrants in urban spaces in South Africa and the sub-region. With many state-run safety nets not available to non-citizens, multiple border closures and a renewed focus on nationalism and xenophobia, many migrants in southern Africa have been left entirely without assistance or forced to make (often informal) ‘return’ journeys to find support from family networks.

This Expert Forum has been convened to take stock of the role of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in South(ern) Africa, two years after their adoption. It will examine the extent to which the GCR and GCM are influencing the implementation of South Africa’s legal and institutional frameworks surrounding refugee and migrant protection in cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The Forum will also explore the unique challenges the global COVID-19 pandemic has created in terms of implementation of the two Compacts at the city, national, and regional levels. Equally, looking forward, the Forum will ask if the pandemic may offer some opportunities to utilize the Compacts further to improve international protection structures for refugees and migrants. For example, by developing more inclusive ‘whole of society’ approaches to healthcare systems at the local and municipality level.

Discussant


Dr. Caroline Wanjiku Kihato, Independent Researcher, writer and Associate of the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS), Wits University

Speakers


Angele Dikongue-Atangana, Deputy Director for Southern Africa, UNHCR

Lily Sanya, Chief of Mission, South Africa, International Organization for Migration (IOM)

Sharon Ekambaram, Head of the Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme at Lawyers for Human Rights, Pretoria

Celine Bankumuhari, Migration Policy Advisor, Division of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees and Displaced Persons, African Union Directorate of Political Affairs 

Professor Loren Landau, African Centre for Migration & Society, Wits University, Oxford University