Organising Somalian, Congolese and Rwandan migrants in a time of xenophobia in South Africa: empirical and methodological reflections
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Xenophobic practices pervade civil society and the state in South Africa. But its victims are not passive. Academic scholarship has not sufficiently recognised the multiple roles of refugees and asylum seekers migrant organisations in a context where refugees are required to "self-settle”. The dominant methodological focus of existing research has been on the migrant as the individual. This paper’s main research objectives are to question this focus and examine evidence of the collective responses to struggles faced by foreign African migrants and refugee groups in Cape Town. Eleven refugee and asylum seeker associations formed by Somalians, Congolese and Rwandan asylum seekers and refugees were investigated, based on extensive interviews with 11 leaders of refugee organisations. These organisations not only strongly defend migrant interests but also project a long-term view of integration into South African society. In addition, the paper concludes by arguing for a shift in the focus of research in order to show that migrant organisations are crucial in an individual’s collective security concerns, in advocacy with government institutions and in initiatives to build relationships with South Africans.