From the news desk

MRSA, working to integrate refugees

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With each passing day more and more people become refugees and asylum seekers, escaping from conflict and possible death in the home country. Organisations now have the task of resettling refugees in the countries in which they seek asylum. One such organisation is the Muslim Refugee Association of South Africa (MRASA). This organisation provides programmes to refugees to allow them to successfully integrate into South African society by providing much needed skills to those who need it.

“We have several projects that aid the refugee community in the country,” explains Nurudean Ssempa, project co-ordinator for MRASA.

His job as a project co-ordinator is to identify projects, run them and also lobby for funding for the project. The centre is based in Athlone and has assisted refugees from Somalia, Burundi, Tanzania, the Congo and Zimbabwe.

“The majority of the refugees are coming from Burundi because of the political situation in that country,” says Ssempa .

Currently Burundi is experiencing a political crisis that started in April when protests erupted against President Nkurunziza’s bid to seek a third term in office.
During Ramadan the refugee centre runs a food distribution programme that hands out food parcels refugees as well as South African citizens in need of much needed aid.

“This programme is run through the support of the community who donates food parcels to be distributed,” Ssempa went further.
Clothes are also collected by the centre and given to refugees and South African locals.

“We also have training programmes where refugees are taught skills such as welding by members of the community,” Ssempa continued.

The centre assists refugees by training them with basic skills that they would need to make themselves employable in South Africa. This includes a computer training centre to learn computer skills and also runs a sewing programme for women.

“MRASA also a language programme for those refugees who do not speak English; we assist them so that they can better communicate in this country,” Ssempa explained.

Furthermore, the organisation also assists refugees in becoming legalised in South Africa. Ssempa noted that refugees chose South Africa as the stability in the country allows them some form of safety. However, this safety has been compromised with the recent xenophobic attacks.

“Some (refugees) feel like they aren’t welcomed by community. We as a centre promote dialogue between the migrants and the rest of the community,” Ssempa added.

Even though MRASA provides assistance for refugees they still encounter difficult situations.

“Getting official documents for refugees could pose a challenge as the office in Cape Town was closed, but was recently ordered to open again,” Ssempa stated.

Refugees in Cape Town had to travel to cities such as Durban and Johannesburg and this proved to be a challenging and expensive process.

“We have also successfully resettled refugees in the US and in Australia,” Ssempa added.

This was done with the help of the UN high commission for refugees (UNHRC) that works with organisations such as MRASA. Programmes that are run by MRASA are done with donations from the community as well as through donors and sponsors.

For more information on the organisation you can log onto their website at VOC (Umarah Hartley)

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