The role of civil society in promoting greater social justice for forced migrants living in the inner city of Johannesburg

Mbombo, Dieudonne Bikoko
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ABSTRACT This paper analyses what has arguably become a salient feature of a ‘just city’ and social development on an international level, namely social justice. Specifically, it focuses on the role of the Johannesburg’s civil society organisations in promoting greater social justice for forced migrants (refugees and asylum seekers) living in the downtown Johannesburg. For this purpose, a case study was carried out, particularly with Africa’s forced migrants living in the inner city of Johannesburg (in Hillbrow and Yeoville). The research makes use of in-depth interview and participant observation methods to uncover the perspectives of a group of refugees and asylum seekers and members of seven civil society organisations, working with forced migrants in Johannesburg. The main research question that the study addresses is: What role can civil society organisations play in facilitating greater social justice for Africa’s asylum seekers and refugees living in the inner city of Johannesburg? I have concluded that Johannesburg’s civil society organisations have the potential, which may allow them to bring social transformation and create a just city by promoting a greater social justice for forced migrants living in the inner city. To achieve this goal, they should play a reformative and transformative role in the inner city, by challenging government exclusionary policies and decisions relating to the forced migrants; and, at the same time, they should mediate between the government and forced migrants at the local and national levels. To conclude this report, I recommended civil society organisations to develop strong collaboration with the city’s planners for a better improvement of the quality of life of forced migrants in the inner city. I also recommend the national government to decentralise its decision-making power on international migration issues by conferring to the provinces and local governments certain power which can allow them to develop internal structures (taking into account the context of each province), which can allow them to protect the basic rights of refugees and asylum seekers, such as the rights to work, to study, and to access free health care.
just city, social justice, forced migration, planning, multiculturalism, civil social society