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Migration and Health: Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa

Migration Dialogue of Southern Africa (MIDSA)

24–26 November 2004

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The MIDSA Workshop on Migration and Health was held in Cape Town, Republic of South Africa on 24-26 November 2004. The governments of Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), The Australian High Commission, the Canadian High Commission, the US Embassy, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), IOM and SAMP were represented.

Opening Session

Mr Arthur Fraser, Deputy Director General of the Department of Home Affairs of South Africa opened the workshop on behalf of the Government and welcomed all participants to South Africa and Cape Town. With reference to previous MIDSA workshops, he underlined the importance of these opportunities for regional dialogue on common migration issues among SADC countries. He stressed that recommendations from previous MIDSA workshops should fill an important role in supporting Governments in their migration related work.

In light of the globalisation of migration and the effects on communicable diseases, Mr. Fraser underlined that one issue that will need particular attention in the region is the availability of HIV/AIDS treatment across borders. He also confirmed that the South African Government and the Department of Home Affairs have put the issue of migration and migrants’ rights high on its agenda and are making increased efforts to ensure a well functioning immigration service, combat xenophobia, and apply the highest standards of treatment to all foreigners. In concluding, Mr Fraser expressed his hopes for fruitful deliberations that could result in recommendations for concrete steps forward.

Mrs. Gawa Samuels, Executive Deputy Mayor of Cape Town welcomed all participants to Cape Town, the ‘Mother City’, and made reference to the common challenges that SADC member states are facing with reference to migration and other issues in the region. Ms. Samuels noted that factors such as inadequate housing, a lack of developed infrastructure, and general poverty all impact the health of migrants, both internal and cross-border. Mrs. Gawa confirmed that the city of Cape Town acknowledges the severity of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and, as a city that is the home of many migrants, Cape Town welcomes the initiative of a MIDSA Workshop on Migration and Health.

Mr. Hans-Petter Boe, Regional Representative for IOM in Southern Africa, welcomed all participants to the third MIDSA event of the year and expressed IOM’s gratitude to the host Government and the City of Cape Town. He reminded the participants that since migrants had historically been ‘vectors’ of communicable diseases, countries of immigration spearhead disease control and that population mobility and health concerns were closely intertwined. He stressed that what is being witnessed in the region currently is that service capacity is decreasing while care needs are increasing. For this reason, it is necessary to encourage action to help people that are affected, including people on the move, to have access to care. At the same time, something must be done to counter the effects of ‘brain drain’ in the health sectors including through increasing resources to mitigate push/pull factors and focus on retention of public health professionals as well as considering tapping the resources in the African Diaspora. He concluded by expressing his wishes for a fruitful workshop and active participation.

Dr. Jonathan Crush, Director of the Southern African Migration Project, welcomed participants to the workshop, which he referred to as a critical meeting at a critical time. He underlined the high importance of the issues that would be discussed during the subsequent two days, including policy framework and the mainstreaming of mobility and migration in a region, which is suffering heavily under the HIV epidemic. He stressed mobility as one of the key factors behind the spread of the disease and the creation of particularly vulnerable populations. He confirmed that the exact linkages between mobility and diseases like HIV/AIDS are not clear and that improved understanding is crucial for creating polices and strategies. He expressed his hopes that the outcome and findings of this workshop will be brought back to our respective countries for further discussion.

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