670.4 “To leave or not to leave” migration and quality of life: The case of female refugees in South Africa

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 11:18 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Ria SMIT , University of Johannesburg, South Africa
South Africa’s relatively smooth transition to a new democracy in 1994 heralded it as a beacon for many asylum seekers and refugees from the rest of Africa. Seventeen years later South Africa is one of the largest recipients of applications for asylum and refugee status in the world. Although South Africa does not provide refugee camps, refugees and asylum seekers have freedom of movement, the right to work and to basic social services within the country. Access to these basic necessities is compounded by the high levels of poverty and unemployment for its own citizens. The ensuing tensions results in social problems and flare-ups of xenophobia attacks on the foreigners. Refugees and asylum seekers left their homelands in search of a better quality of life in South Africa for themselves and their children. This paper will shed light on a comparative qualitative study conducted amongst a group of refugee women from The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Zimbabwe with regard to their views on the quality of life in South Africa. From their narratives, South Africa is not the country they had imagined it would be; instead it is fraught with unemployment, poverty, inequality, corruption and as foreigners, they have been targets of xenophobia. These pervasive conditions impact on the quality of life and the wellbeing of the refugees and their families. The narratives from the women from the DRC and Burundi indicate that life back home was much better than their current situation. For the Zimbabwean refugees, South Africa offers more opportunities. Torn between leaving and staying, this paper will shed light on what does quality of life mean to the refugees and the ways in which they attempt to improve their quality of life in South Africa.