South Africa’s Constitutional Court Ruling Establishes Rights of Asylum Seekers and Condemns Visa Renewal Policy

South Africa's Constitutional Court Ruling Establishes Rights Of Asylum Seekers And Condemns Visa Renewal Policy

In a groundbreaking decision, the Constitutional Court has declared that the South African Home Affairs’ policy, which assumes that asylum seekers have “abandoned” their applications if they fail to renew their visas within one month of the visa’s expiry date, violates fundamental principles of refugee law. The court’s ruling emphasises that asylum seekers must be treated as refugees until their claims have reached a final determination.

The case was brought before the Constitutional Court by the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, a trust dedicated to assisting migrant communities and displaced people. The organisation sought confirmation of the High Court’s order of invalidity, arguing that the relevant sections of the Refugees Act create a system that disregards the merits of an asylum seeker’s claim and instead ties their rights to their ability to comply with visa renewal requirements. This approach, Scalabrini contended, directly contravened the principle of non-refoulement under international law, which prohibits the return of individuals to countries where they would face torture, inhumane treatment, or harm.

Constitutional Court Justice Steven Majiedt noted that the respondents did not oppose the confirmation of the constitutional invalidity of the impugned provisions. They conceded that the problematic provisions needed to be eliminated entirely.

Justice Majiedt further stated, “The impugned provisions violate a number of constitutional rights. They violate the right to dignity by cutting off asylum seekers from essential services required for a dignified life. Moreover, they expose asylum seekers and their children to constant risks of arrest and deportation, which infringe upon the rights to life and personal liberty, all because a visa has not been renewed.”

Consequently, the court confirmed the high court’s declaration of constitutional invalidity, as the impugned subsections violated the principle of non-refoulement, infringed upon the right to dignity, unjustifiably limited the rights of children, and were deemed irrational and arbitrary.

The ruling holds significant implications for the treatment of asylum seekers in South Africa. It establishes that asylum seekers should be afforded the same protections as refugees until their claims have been thoroughly evaluated. The decision underscores the importance of upholding human rights and preventing the unjust treatment of vulnerable individuals.

As part of the ruling, the Minister of Home Affairs has been instructed to bear the costs associated with the case, emphasising the need for accountability and adherence to constitutional principles.

This landmark judgement marks a significant step forward in ensuring the fair and just treatment of asylum seekers within South Africa’s immigration system. It highlights the importance of protecting the rights and dignity of all individuals seeking refuge, regardless of their visa status.


Source: SABC News

Severe Drought Threatens Zimbabwe’s Food Security as Maize Harvest Expected to Halve in 2024

Severe Drought Threatens Zimbabwe's Food Security As Maize Harvest Expected To Halve In 2024

In a concerning announcement made on Wednesday, Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube, revealed that the country’s staple maize harvest is predicted to plummet to 1.1 million tons in 2024. This drastic reduction, attributed to an El Nino-induced drought, highlights an impending grain deficit that poses a significant risk to food security in impoverished households.

With an annual requirement of approximately 1.8 million tons of maize for human consumption, Zimbabwe had projected a maize harvest of 2.3 million tons in 2023. However, the United States Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has cautioned that governments, donors, and humanitarian organisations should brace themselves for elevated food assistance needs in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar throughout 2024 and early 2025, as El Nino disrupts agriculture in these regions.

El Nino, a natural climate phenomenon characterised by unusually warm surface waters in the central and eastern Pacific, leads to global weather pattern alterations. It is expected to severely impact crop yields during the upcoming 2023/24 farming season. Farmers in Zimbabwe, already grappling with frequent droughts alongside a protracted economic crisis, have encountered difficulties in planting the staple grain due to high temperatures and dry conditions associated with El Nino.

According to Zimbabwe’s cabinet, by December 10th, only 95,156 hectares of land had been cultivated with summer crops, primarily grains. This represents a stark decline from the 465,707 hectares planted by the same time last year.

During a World Bank briefing on Zimbabwe’s 2024 economic prospects held in Harare, Minister Ncube projected a 4.9% contraction in the country’s agriculture sector next year due to the El Nino-induced drought. He remarked, “Maize is the most impacted, with estimated output plummeting to 1.1 million metric tonnes.”

Last month, Minister Ncube had already warned that Zimbabwe’s economic growth would decelerate to 3.5% in 2024, aligning with the World Bank’s forecasts, down from 5.5% in 2023. This downward revision is primarily attributable to the adverse effects of the impending drought.

The combination of dwindling maize harvests, a struggling economy, and the potential threat of food insecurity underscores the urgent need for comprehensive measures to mitigate the impact of the impending crisis. The Zimbabwean government, along with international partners, must mobilise resources and support to ensure the availability of adequate food supplies and safeguard the well-being of vulnerable communities.


Source: News24 SA


Aberdeen Chosen as Second Headquarters for Department for Energy Security, Boosting Scottish Economy and Net Zero Efforts

Aberdeen Chosen As Second Headquarters For Department For Energy Security, Boosting Scottish Economy And Net Zero Efforts

In a significant development, Aberdeen has been selected as the second headquarters for the Department for Energy Security, as part of the UK Government’s plans to relocate civil service roles outside of Westminster. The move is expected to be completed by 2027, with the aim of shifting 22,000 Civil Service positions away from the capital by 2030.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack expressed his enthusiasm for the decision, hailing it as “great news” that underscores the government’s commitment to the north-east of Scotland, as well as the oil, gas, and renewables sectors. This move aligns with the government’s broader efforts to support the region’s economy and promote sustainable energy sources.

This decision builds upon the existing Aberdeen City Regional Deal, which had previously secured £90 million in funding for the city’s Net Zero Technology Centre. The centre focuses on advancing technologies to decarbonise the oil and gas industry, playing a crucial role in the nation’s transition to a net-zero economy.

Energy Minister Andrew Bowie emphasised the significance of the department’s second headquarters in Aberdeen, highlighting the region’s pivotal role in the country’s journey toward achieving its net-zero ambitions. This decision not only strengthens the local economy but also reinforces the government’s commitment to fostering sustainable energy practices.

The move of the Department for Energy Security to Aberdeen marks a milestone in decentralising governmental functions and recognising the expertise and potential of regions outside of the capital. It is expected to create new employment opportunities, attract investment, and further establish Aberdeen as a hub for energy competence and innovation.

As the transition to a net-zero future gains momentum, the selection of Aberdeen as a key administrative centre demonstrates the government’s dedication to supporting the energy sector while driving sustainable growth and addressing environmental challenges.

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi Highlights Achievements and Future Plans in State of the Nation Address

Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi Highlights Achievements And Future Plans In State Of The Nation Address

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi delivered a State of the Nation Address during the opening of the country’s Parliament, outlining the government’s successes and ambitious plans ahead of the upcoming elections next year. In his address, President Masisi emphasised the importance of various sectors, including tourism, agriculture, mining, real estate, creative industries, sport, manufacturing, science and technology, and the digital economy.

One of the notable achievements mentioned by President Masisi was the successful restriction of vegetable imports from South Africa, which resulted in a significant reduction in the country’s import bill. He further pledged to invest funds derived from De Beers into agriculture and tourism, aiming to achieve “prosperity for all” by 2036.

President Masisi also highlighted the government’s efforts to digitise services and improve online accessibility for citizens. Plans are underway to enable online applications for national identification cards, passports, social benefit grants, driver’s licenses, and other services. The government has engaged youth-led companies to provide e-commerce-related activities and is working towards implementing an electronic medical records system in the e-health sector by March 2024. Additionally, initiatives in e-learning, e-commerce, and other internet-based services aim to integrate various aspects of life in Botswana.

In terms of connectivity, the government has successfully connected 1,138 public facilities in 144 villages to high-speed internet, benefiting around half a million people in a population of 2.4 million.

Regarding the agriculture sector, President Masisi expressed plans to create a horticultural market by April next year, promoting wider citizen participation in agribusiness and associated value chains. Efforts to liberalise the beef business and enhance local production of meat and milk through artificial insemination programs were also highlighted.

Diamonds remain a crucial source of foreign exchange for Botswana, and the revised contracts with the De Beers Group are expected to generate significant revenue for the state. The Diamond Development Fund is projected to accumulate P10 billion over the next decade, benefiting other sectors of the economy such as tourism, hospitality, agriculture, research, and development.

Furthermore, Botswana will host the Kimberley Process Permanent Secretariat, a global regulator of the diamond mining industry, starting in January next year. President Masisi sees this as a testament to the international community’s confidence in Botswana’s governance processes.

The government is also focused on boosting the tourism sector, with plans to transform the Chobe area into a high-value tourism destination through the Kasane-Kazungula redevelopment project. Various international events and festivals held in Botswana, including the Toyota Gazoo, Desert Race, Makgadikgadi Epic, and Kazungula Marathon, are expected to attract more visitors to the country.

President Masisi emphasised Botswana’s commitment to establishing itself as a preferred destination for hosting meetings, conferences, exhibitions, and incentives. Hosting these events brings numerous benefits to sectors such as hotels, hospitality, retail, and transportation.

In conclusion, President Masisi’s State of the Nation Address highlighted the government’s achievements in various sectors and its plans for future development. The focus on agriculture, tourism, digitisation, and the diamond industry reflects Botswana’s commitment to economic growth and prosperity.


Source: News24

Kenya Sends Farm Workers to Israel to Address Labour Shortage

Kenya Sends Farm Workers To Israel To Address Labour Shortage

Kenya’s labour ministry has announced that it will send 1,500 farm workers to Israel, following in the footsteps of Malawi, which sent 221 young people to work on Israeli farms recently. The workers will be deployed on renewable three-year contracts with a guaranteed net monthly income of $1,500. Israel has turned to Africa to fill the labour gap on its farms after the departure of over 10,000 foreign workers, primarily from Thailand, due to the war with Hamas. The country has also restricted the entry of Palestinian workers, who formerly comprised nearly 20% of the agricultural labour force. Israel’s ambassador in Kenya stated that plans are underway to recruit farm workers from Uganda, while recruitment in Tanzania has already begun. Concerns have been raised about the workers’ safety and the working conditions they may face in Israel, given previous reports of unsafe practices and poor living conditions for migrant farm workers. However, Israel has implemented additional measures to ensure fair treatment of foreign workers and has stated that they enjoy the same employment rights as Israeli citizens. The move has received mixed reactions in Kenya, with some viewing it as an opportunity for much-needed jobs, while others express concerns about workers’ welfare in a conflict-prone region.


Source: BBC

Edinburgh Sees Increase in Approved Housing Plans Replaced by Student Accommodation, Raising Concerns

Edinburgh Sees Increase In Approved Housing Plans Replaced By Student Accommodation, Raising Concerns

Heritage organisation, the Cockburn Association, has raised concerns over a growing trend in Edinburgh where approved housing plans are being scrapped in favour of student accommodation after receiving consent for mainstream homes. The association views this shift as worrying and indicative of investors prioritising the more lucrative market for Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA).

Terry Levinthal, Director of the Cockburn Association, noted that housing consents are frequently changing to PBSA proposals immediately after approval. The association cited an example at 27 Arthur Street, where objections were raised against the change to student accommodation from the initially approved scheme of 33 apartments. The Cockburn Association believes that the approved development could have accommodated students, addressing the needs of non-first-year students seeking traditional flats to share with friends.

The housing crisis in the city, which encompasses student housing, has led to concerns about the shift from approved mainstream housing to specific and inflexible student bedsits. Rising mortgage rates and frozen private rents for traditional landlord properties appear to be pushing investors towards the more profitable PBSA market. However, this trend may not be in the best interest of the city’s already pressurised housing market in the long run.

This issue has come to light following the revelation that approved plans for homes on Willowbrae Road have been replaced with proposals for student accommodation. Developers submitted new plans for a block of 138 student beds, superseding previously consented proposals for a mix of one, two, and three-bedroom flats.

Local MPs and the community have expressed disbelief that a viable proposal for homes would be exchanged for student accommodation, particularly when the city is facing a housing emergency. Recent figures revealed that student accommodation accounts for over a quarter of all developments granted permission in the Capital.

The Cockburn Association and concerned citizens are urging the city council to address this issue, especially in light of the severe shortage of social rented homes, escalating private rental costs, and record levels of homelessness. The council has been approached for comment on the matter.


Source: Edinburgh News

Burkina Faso Adopts Bill Making National Languages Official, Demoting French to Working Language

Burkina Faso Adopts Bill Making National Languages Official, Demoting French To Working Language

The Burkinabè government has passed a bill revising the Constitution, officially recognising national languages as the country’s official languages, while relegating French to the status of a “working language.” The bill, which is part of the transitional government’s mission to strengthen democracy and the rule of law, aims to initiate political, administrative, and institutional reforms.

Among the significant changes introduced by the bill is the establishment of national languages as official languages, replacing French. This move follows a similar decision made earlier this year by Mali, which also modified its Constitution to downgrade French to a working language.

The bill, which still requires approval from the Transitional Legislative Assembly, also includes provisions for the establishment of traditional and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. Furthermore, the bill expands the missions of the Constitutional Council while abolishing institutions such as the High Court of Justice, responsible for judging senior political figures, and the Mediator of Faso.

The National Intelligence Agency (ANR), a powerful agency, has its status reinforced and protected by being enshrined in the Constitution.

In recent months, demonstrations advocating for a new Constitution have taken place in Burkina Faso. Captain Ibrahim Traoré, who assumed power in September 2022, had pledged to partially modify the Constitution two months ago.

Prime Minister Apollinaire Joachimson Kyelem of Tambela stated that the writing of a new Constitution is essential for political, economic, and cultural sovereignty. Burkina Faso aims to move away from foreign concepts and establish its own identity. These changes reflect a shift in the country’s relationship with France, its former colonial power, and a move towards closer ties with Moscow.

Since 2015, Burkina Faso has been grappling with violence perpetrated by jihadist groups, which have also affected neighbouring Mali and Niger, resulting in a death toll of over 17,000 people.


Source: Africa News

Seychelles Declares State of Emergency After Flooding and Explosions

Seychelles Explosion Floods

Seychelles, a small island nation in the Indian Ocean, declared a state of emergency following a massive blast at an explosives depot, which occurred after deadly flooding hit the country. Three people lost their lives in the flooding, according to the president.

The explosion took place in the industrial area of Providence, located around 7 kilometres southeast of the capital, Victoria, on the main island of Mahe. Over 100 individuals were injured, and buildings were destroyed while trees were flattened in the vicinity. The blast was followed by heavy rain and flooding that affected the northern part of Mahe, causing flooding, washed-out roads, and landslides.

President Wavel Ramkalawan announced the state of emergency, ordering the closure of schools and instructing people to stay at home to allow emergency services and essential workers to carry out their duties. The blast resulted in massive damage, while the floods caused major destruction.

Ramkalawan later confirmed that three people died due to the heavy rain and flooding, and 125 individuals sustained injuries from the blast. Many buildings were partially or completely destroyed, leaving a large crater. Families have been forced to evacuate their homes due to safety concerns.

The president expressed shock at the aftermath of the incident, describing it as akin to a war zone. An investigation will be conducted to determine if the construction company housing the explosives followed proper storage precautions.

While the international airport and ferry services between islands continue to operate, allowing essential travel during the state of emergency, Seychelles’ tourism industry, a major economic sector, may be impacted. The country is known for its natural beauty and is located off the east coast of Africa.

Flooding and heavy rainfall have affected several countries in the East African region, leading to loss of life and displacement of millions of people. Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan have all experienced severe floods exacerbated by the El Niño phenomenon. The death toll in the region has surpassed 130 individuals.


Source: ABC News

UK Immigration Minister Resigns Over Rwanda Asylum Transfer Legislation

Cabinet Meeting At Downing Street In London

In a significant development, UK Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has resigned over the government’s proposed legislation regarding the Rwanda asylum transfer scheme. Jenrick stated that the new law “does not go far enough” in providing sufficient safeguards for the success of the policy. The government’s plan to transfer certain asylum seekers to Rwanda has faced extensive legal challenges since its announcement in April 2022. Despite the UK Supreme Court ruling the scheme unlawful, successive Home Secretaries have attempted to push it forward.

Jenrick, who serves within the Home Office, expressed his inability to support the latest draft bill through the legislative process, citing the need for stronger protections to prevent ongoing legal challenges that could hinder the scheme and undermine its intended deterrent effect. His resignation letter emphasised the high stakes involved in addressing illegal migration to the UK effectively.

Previously, Jenrick had publicly pledged to take any necessary measures to tackle illegal migration, including the possibility of withdrawing from the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). Some hardliner lawmakers within the Conservative Party, including former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, have advocated for the UK’s departure from the ECHR, arguing that it hampers the Rwanda policy.

The government’s newly unveiled legislation did not withdraw the UK from the ECHR but included a crucial caveat. Home Secretary James Cleverley acknowledged on the first page of the bill that he could not guarantee its compatibility with Convention rights. The bill also disallowed specific sections of the UK Human Rights Act, which incorporates ECHR rights into domestic law. Furthermore, a clause asserted the bill’s sovereignty and its independence from key international law instruments, including the ECHR and the Refugee Convention.

The opposition Labour Party strongly criticised the legislation, highlighting that this is the third draft presented by the government. Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper described the government as being in a state of “total chaos” and called for a focus on combating criminal gangs involved in smuggling people into the UK.

Legal experts, including Professor Mark Elliot of the University of Cambridge, have also voiced criticism. Elliot argued that the bill is “hypocritical” as it assumes Rwanda’s compliance with international law obligations to treat asylum seekers humanely while allowing the UK to potentially breach its own obligations.

The Rwandan government issued a warning to the UK, threatening to withdraw from the partnership if the UK fails to adhere to international law. Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta emphasised that without lawful behaviour by the UK, Rwanda would not be able to continue the Migration and Economic Development Partnership.

The next step for the bill is its debate in parliament during the “second reading” stage, where UK lawmakers will discuss its merits and potential implications.


Source: CNN

German Troops Begin Withdrawal from Gao as UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali Winds Down

German Troops Begin Withdrawal From Gao As Un Peacekeeping Mission In Mali Winds Down

The withdrawal of German troops from Gao, Mali, has commenced as the United Nations (UN) undertakes the dismantling of its peacekeeping mission in the country by the end of this year. Starting on Tuesday, personnel stationed at Camp Castor, which supports the activities of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), began disassembling and transporting their equipment back to Germany.

This move aligns with the UN Security Council’s decision in June to conclude the decade-long peacekeeping mission in Mali. The military junta in Mali, which has recently aligned itself with Russia, had urged the removal of foreign troops from the country. The junta’s cooperation with Russia also included the involvement of the Wagner Group.

Mali’s relationship with the United Nations has significantly deteriorated since a military coup in 2020 brought a military regime to power, which subsequently severed defence cooperation with France, its former colonial power. As per the long-standing UN protocol, the host country’s approval is required for a peacekeeping mission to be established.

As of the end of November, the UN mission had dismantled nine of the twelve MINUSMA bases in Mali. MINUSMA has been deployed in the country since 2013 to support the nation’s security against jihadist rebels affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, as well as a separatist uprising led by the Tuareg people.

The withdrawal of German troops signifies another step towards the conclusion of the UN peacekeeping mission. The process of dismantling bases and transporting equipment back to respective countries is a complex endeavour that requires careful coordination to ensure the safety of personnel and the preservation of peace and security in the region.

The UN and its partners, including Germany, remain committed to working closely with the Malian government to facilitate a smooth transition and support the country’s efforts towards long-term stability. The conclusion of the peacekeeping mission marks a significant milestone in Mali’s trajectory, highlighting the need for continued international cooperation and support to address the remaining challenges faced by the nation.

As the UN mission in Mali winds down, the focus will shift towards strengthening the capacity of the Malian security forces and promoting sustainable development in the country. The international community will continue to monitor the situation in Mali closely and explore avenues for collaboration to ensure lasting peace and prosperity for its people.


Source: Africa News