South Africa has marked World Refugees Day Monday with Home Affairs (Interior) Minister Malusi Gigaba saying that the country has had one of the most liberal asylum-seeker management regimes in Africa.

Speaking at the Catholic Archdiocese in Johannesburg, Gigaba said South Africa’s commitment to help refugees wass driven by the country’s historic experiences as victims of oppression and State violence, constitutional values and international commitments.

“Since 1994, South Africa has been absolutely committed to contributing to the peace, stability and development of Africa,” he said.

Gigaba told guests attending the event that South Africa was proud to be one of the few African countries which received large volumes of asylum seekers, which did not have an encampment policy.

“An unintended consequence of our liberal asylum regime has been that migrants who are not genuine refugees but are seeking economic opportunities have used it to attempt to regularise their stay in South Africa,” he noted.

“The sheer volume of applications from these migrants has placed an enormous burden on the refugee status determination process, which has disadvantaged genuine asylum seekers by delaying their decisions, in the past, taking years where they should take no more than six months.”

Gigaba said resolving the strain on South Africa’s asylum seeker system would require new policy proposals, improved operational efficiency, and support from partners such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“Our immigration and asylum seeker management officials have done tremendous work to get to the point where we are now reaching status decisions within the target period in most cases. We are poised to construct a backlog project which we hope we will be supported on by relevant stakeholders,” he said.

Sharon Cooper, the Regional Representative of the UNHCR, commended the South African government for its action plan to address the plight of the refugees. She encouraged refugees to work with the government and said the UNHCR was aware of their plight and will continue to address their concerns.


Athletic General