Friday, 20 June 2003

Cape Town (Fides Service) – Shelter, food, medical assistance, schooling, professional training are some of the services offered by the Scalabrini Refugee Service in Cape Town, South Africa, a large port destination of a massive migratory flow from African and Asian countries. In view of World Refugee Day, 20 June, the Scalabrini Fathers organised various events to increase awareness on the situation of refugees.
For the whole month of June an exhibition of photographs on human mobility has been on view at the Scalabrini Centre in Cape Town. The recently inaugurated Centre will host a job training project run by the Scalabrini Development Agency.
Refugees arriving in South Africa must apply for temporary asylum, the Scalabrini Fathers tell Fides Service. For the first six months, while waiting for their request to be accepted or refused, these people may not work and they need all kinds of assistance. Many are taken in by relations or friends, but many others live at railway stations or under bridges. These are the ones for whom the Scalabrini Fathers provide shelter, food, health care, instruction of professional training to help them prepare for a better future.
The Scalabrini fathers run English language courses for adults and children, basic knowledge of the language is essential if these people are to become part of society. Many families are followed in the care of their children to ensure the children schooling: in 2002 the missionaries paid schooling expenses of more than 130 students. Missionaries also finance in part professional or university courses for some refugees. In 2002 this happened for about 50 students or apprentices. There is also a pastoral service for Christian refugees: in two parishes Mass is celebrated in French and prayer and Bible groups have been started. Youth groups in some parishes organise days to increase awareness of the situation of refugees among their peers and help them share the joy of serving others.
The Scalabrini, or Missionaries of St Charles, were founded in 1887 by Bishop Giovan Battista Scalabrini of Piacenza with the charism of assisting Italian emigrants. For several decades now the congregation has cared for all immigrants or refugees whatever their nationality, and dealt with problems connected with human mobility. At present they are 781 in 249 communities. PA (Fides Service 20/6/2003 EM lines 38 Words: 444)