Joining the international PROTECT consortium from Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa are Associate Professor and Director of the African Centre for Migration & Society, Jo Vearey – and colleagues Dr. Nicholas Maple, and Dr. Kudakwashe Vanyoro.

PROTECT’s Wits team is involved in several Work Packages across the entire project. In one end, the team works with researchers from the University of Bergen, Surrey, Catania, and Ryerson University in unveiling how changes in the global protection framework affect groups and individuals on field-level, with special attention to how social, sexual, and cultural vulnerabilities are recognized, safeguarded and incorporated in protection governance.

This is the main objective of Work Package 4, which maps how the Global Compacts on Refugees and Migrants are perceived by governance actors and people entitled to international protection in migratory hotspots in Italy, France, Greece, Canada, and South Africa.

This Work Package is co-led by Jo Vearey. Joining Vearey in this work is Kudakwashe Vanyoro.

The Wits team is also involved in WP3, which investigates the institutional architectures of Refugee Status Determination in a comparative fashion. Here, the Wits team is in charge of tracing the history of the South African asylum determination apparatus over time with a view to explain its evolution.

Meet Jo Vearey

With a background in public health, Jo Vearey’s work focuses on the relationship between migration, mobility, and health. Her research explores international, regional, national, and local responses to migration, health, and urban vulnerabilities and her research interests include urban health, public health, migration and health, the social determinants of health, HIV, informal settlements, and sex work. Vearey coordinates the Migration and Health Project Southern Africa (maHp), focused on improving responses to migration, health, and well-being in the SADC region.

Meet Kudakwashe Vanyoro

Kudakwashe Vanyoro is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the African Centre for Migration & Society. His doctoral research explored how temporal disruptions at international borders shape (im) mobile bodies’ experiences and modes of waiting by focusing on irregular Zimbabwean migrant men at the Zimbabwe-South Africa border who have arrived in South Africa but are restricted in moving further into the interior.

He has also been conducting research uptake work for ACMS since 2014. As part of this role, Vanyoro is responsible for stakeholder engagement in South Africa and is regularly called upon to brief decision-makers in government and civil society, including the creation of synthesis documents and other communication products to make evidence more accessible and applicable.

The Compacts’ Legal Potential

The Wits team also contributes to Work Package 2, which examines the legal potentials and impacts of the Global Compacts. As part of this work, Jo Vearey and Nicholas Maple are organizing one of six Expert Forums where policymakers and academics in the field of migration and refugee protection discuss the implementation of the Global Compacts and the challenges ahead for global refugee protection.

The South African forum, organized on 26 November 2020, addressed the role of the Global Compacts in South(ern) Africa, two years after their adoption and 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 also explored 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.

Watch full talks and discussions from the Wits Expert Forum 26 November, 2020 in the video below:

Meet Nicholas Maple

Dr. Maple was a PhD student at the Refugee Law Initiative (RLI), Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, under the supervision of Dr David Cantor. His PhD investigated reception policies in southern Africa and how they interact with the refugee regime and its core norms (with a particular focus on freedom of movement).

During his PhD, he was affiliated with the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) at the University of the Witwatersrand and the Southern African Institute for Policy and Research in Lusaka, Zambia. He has two years experience working in the field as an advocate for organizations such as Asylum Access, Norwegian Refugee Council, and UNHCR.

Finally, he has previously completed consultancy work for the RLI and Chatham House and has had work published by UNHCR.

Engaging in public conversations

Jo Vearey engages actively in public conversations through blog posts, chronicles, podcasts, and TV appearances. Over the past few months, Vearey has contributed to the debate on the South African response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In a recent post on the PROTECT blog, the Work Package 4 colleagues, Jo Vearey and Idil Atak addressed how the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is affecting the rights of refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers in South Africa and Canada.

In this piece, Vearey explained that foreign migrants have incorrectly been blamed for spreading Covid-19 and for placing pressure on the South African public health system. This is, in turn, contributing to spreading xenophobic attitudes among South Africans.

In a co-authored piece for the Bheksisa Centre for Health Journalism, Vearey stresses that shut borders is not the way to curb the virus outbreak, but rather poses a threat to the rights of vulnerable migrants, emphasizing that “No bacteria or virus — including the new coronavirus — stops to ask people about their documentation status or nationality before they strike: “Neither should we in our efforts to curb the spread of the virus”.

Vearey has also made two written contributions to the online magazine, the South African Daily Maverick on migrants’ rights during the South African Corona lockdown: The Hypocrisy in the time of Covid-19 and Foreign Migrants must be included in Covid-19 response.

In the podcast Monday Morning Meetings on Migration, Professor Vearey also made an appearance to discuss the responses to the pandemic in South Africa and testing of vulnerable groups.

Professor Vearey on SABC News Unfiltered:

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