South Africa is home to a number of refugees who have been forced to flee conflict in their countries. There are numerous challenges faced by foreign nationals in South Africa. They are often accused of coming to South Africa and stealing jobs from the locals.
Two months ago, it was reported that the ANC wants government to consider imposing quotas of the number of foreign nationals that companies in different sectors can employ. But the fact of the matter is that foreign nationals are struggling to find jobs, despite being highly-educated and qualified.
David Molemelwa who is from the Democratic republic of Congo works as a security guard despite being a qualified social worker. He has been living in South Africa for the last 12 years with his wife and 2 children.
“I am a qualified social worker since 2016. I studied at Unisa and even did an internship at the Valkenberg Hospital for a few months. After my internship I was hoping I would get a job there but I didn’t,” he said.
Employment is one of the greatest challenges faced by people who are trying to find their feet in South Africa. But this is usually compounded by racial stereotyping and xenophobia, which heights tensions between foreigners and locals.
Congolese national Fredrick Bakala is a qualified lawyer seeking employment in SA. He also had to study further when he moved to South Africa. During his time here, Bakala explains how South Africans have treated him due to him being a foreign national.
“In the Congo we have the sense of Bantu culture…we don’t just ignore or take a different stand to people. In SA it’s not so easy. At varsity I found it difficult to mingle with people and even lecturers were harsh towards me. There were moments when I am back home taking a shower and tears are falling from my eyes because I am reminded by people that I don’t belong here.”
When someone comes into South Africa and claims refugee status it means this individual has been granted asylum status and protection in terms of the section 24 of Refugee Act No 130 of 1998. But even through seeking asylum it’s almost impossible to get a job.
Scallabrini Centre of Cape Town offers a range of services to migrants who need the opportunity for a second chance.
“We offer different programmes to name a few. One of the programmes is advocacy where we offer paralegal advice to anybody that needs assistance with their asylum permits. Then we offer an employment access help desk that assists clients in finding work,” says Hylton Bergh, the employment access programme manager.
“When seeking employment at various companies, foreign nationals are challenged because they sometimes have to start their higher education again due to the qualification not being recognised in South African context. So people who have a three year degree or matric have to go through the South African Qualifications Authority. Qualifications from their home country are evaluated by SAQWA and they receive their certificate in South African terms,” Bergh explained.
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