By Clifford Chitupa Mashiri
Here is why concerned global citizens and intellectuals have organised a conference on the latest EU’s latest migrants’ strategy and South Africa’s xenophobic violence due on 30 May at King’s College, Strand Campus from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.
The initial plan for the conference was to debate the perceived relentless bashing of immigrants by some politicians in the UK’s election campaign, but this was overtaken by the drowning of an estimated 1200 migrants in one week after their vessels capsized off Libya on 12 and 19 April 2015.
There was outrage after a media columnist Ms Kate Hopkins wrote of migrants fleeing Libya in her column for The Sun: “Make no mistake, these migrants are cockroaches.
They might look a bit like ‘Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia circa 1984’ but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb.’ And, “Once gunships have driven them back to their shores, boats need to be confiscated and burned on a huge bonfire” (The Star, ‘Has Katie Hopkins finally been silenced?’ 23 April 2015).
As a result, 277, 691 people signed an online petition to have Ms Hopkins removed as a columnist of The Sun.
However, in a follow up column in The Sun on 24 April 2015, Ms Hopkins said: “I am reassured the EU action plan for this crisis reflects my own views. Stop the traffickers and burn their boats. If we stop the boats, we stop the drowning.”
A confidential draft EU summit statement seen by The Guardian indicated that the majority of those who survive the journey to Italy will be sent back as irregular migrants under a new rapid-return programme by the EU’s border agency, Frontex (see The Guardian, “Most migrants crossing Mediterranean will be sent back, EU leaders to agree,” 22 April, 2015).
At the same time, in early April 2015, a wave of deadly xenophobic violence swept through South African cities of Durban and Johannesburg, targeting shops and homes of Somalis, Ethiopians, Malawians, Mozambicans, Zimbabweans, Nigerians and other immigrants.
Local media reports say violence against immigrants erupted in the port of Durban after Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini had said at a recent gathering that foreigners “should pack their bags and go” because they are taking jobs from citizens (see CNN, ‘What’s behind xenophobic attacks in South Africa?’ 19 April 2015).
According to Channel4, in one video a group of migrants are rounded up and burnt alive – including a child.
In another a man is dragged on the streets naked and stoned (see Channel4, “Burnt alive: violence against migrants in South Africa,” 15 April, 2015).
Mr Zwelithini’s office denied he made the comments, saying journalists misquoted him, but The Times published an audio recording of the King saying in Zulu with English subtitles that foreigners must pack up and leave the country (See Times Live, “Listen to exactly what King Goodwill Zwelithini said about foreigners,” 16 April 2015).
As a result, many believe this is what fuelled the xenophobic attacks, although, the United Nations said the attacks started in March 2015 after a labour dispute between citizens and foreign workers (see UN New Centre, ‘Spate of deadly xenophobic violence in South Africa draws UN concern,’ 17 April 2015).
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) condemned the attacks after nearly three weeks. Zimbabwe has the largest number of migrants in South Africa estimated at approximately 2 million and repatriated about 700 of them back home following the attacks.
In the fall out, Nigeria recalled its ambassador to Pretoria. In 2008 many foreigners were burnt alive in South Africa. Accordingly, the forthcoming conference will have four objectives, i.e. to give participants the opportunity to:
- objectively debate the efficacy of the EU’s strategies for handling the refugee and humanitarian crisis which is unfolding in the Mediterranean Sea and whether it addresses the real causes of forced and voluntary migration from Africa, Asia and the Middle-East;
- analyse the medium and long—term implications of the EU’s migrant strategies for world peace and security;
- identify credible and plausible causes and catalysts of xenophobic violence in South Africa which saw 8 people murdered with machetes, knives, guns, stones, bricks, and fire; shops looted, thousands displaced and whether the South African government handled the situation efficiently and effectively;
- discuss whether the African Union and SADC were complicit in South Africa’s perceived poor handling of the deadly xenophobic violence and identify what strategies they have put in place to avoid a repeat.
As illustrated on the draft programme below, speakers being invited to the first part of the conference, apart from scholars, are Ms Kate Hopkins, The Sun columnist, Ms Izzy Saunders (petition organiser), representatives of the European Union, the UNHCR, the Libyan Ambassador, the Eritrean Ambassador, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders (Medicines Sans Frontiers) and Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel Hamid (who visited Libya).
To the second part of the conference speakers being invited include H.E. King Goodwill Zwelithini, the South African Ambassador to the UK, The Times (which covered the stabbing of Emmanuel Sithole of Mozambique), the African Union, the Nigerian Ambassador to the UK, the Mozambican Ambassador to the UK, and the Zimbabwean Ambassador to the UK.
Clifford is the project leader for the forthcoming conference. He has researched forced migration since 2012 and his LSBU Social Sciences PhD research is entitled: “Between Forced Migration and Forced Removal”: Assessing impact of Zimbabwe’s diaspora politics on the homeland (2000-2015).
A post-graduate of the University of Zimbabwe, former diplomat and a self-taught international relations scholar with a keen interest in forced migration, Clifford
presented a conference paper entitled: ‘Lampedusa Migrant Tragedy: can moral agency theory help to locate responsibility?’ at the London South Bank University, Postgraduate Summer School on 26 June 2014.
He also studied Project Management in Germany and Press and Public Relations in Indonesia.
The Conference’s Tentative Programme which is subject to amendments.
10.00 EU Representative EU summit resolutions on handling the refugee and humanitarian crisis which is unfolding in the Mediterranean Sea
10:15 Questions and Answers/discussion
10.30 Morning break refreshments
11:00 Kate Hopkins, The Sun columnist – “A Personal Viewpoint”.
11:10 Ivy Saunders, Anti-xenophobia petitioner – “Why the petition was launched.”
11:20 Questions and Answers/discussion
11:30 Scholarly paper Addressing the Real Causes? The medium and long—term implications of the EU’s migrant strategies for world peace and security.
11:40 Doctors Without Borders “A Humanitarian Perspective on the EU plan”
11:50 Amnesty International A Human Rights perspective on the EU plan.
12.00 Libyan Ambassador to the UK– “Helping to find a solution/s.”
12:10 Questions and answers/discussion
13:00 Working Lunch
13:30 The UN Secretary General’s representative’s “Implications of the EU plan.”
13:40 Questions and Answers
13:50 Scholarly paper: “Causes and catalysts of xenophobic violence in South Africa, the way forward.”
14:00 South African Ambassador to the UK
14:10 King Goodwill Zwelithini – elaborating his statement
14:30 The Times (which covered the stabbing of Emmanuel Sithole of Mozambique)
14:45 Mozambican Ambassador to the UK (Combatting Xenophobic violence).
15:00 Questions and Answers/discussion
15:10 Nigerian Ambassador to the UK (Diplomacy as a tool).
15:20 Zimbabwean Ambassador to the UK (Picking up the pieces?)
15:30 Afternoon break refreshments
16:00 The African Union’s strategies for combatting xenophobic violence
16:15 Questions and Answers/discussion
16:30 Joint panel discussion (i.e. morning and afternoon panels)
16:45 Joint panel discussion/ Questions and Answers
16:50 Joint panel discussion/Questions and Answers
16:55 Summary and concluding remarks
End of programme.
There are limited seats. Bookings are being made through Evenbrite on this link: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-eus-latest-migrants-strategy-on-the-mediterranean-sea-and-south-africas-handling-of-the-recent-tickets-16748277549
The event is being coordinated by Clifford. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.