Fewer than 1 in 6 asylum seekers in SA granted refugee status

2019-07-09 07:48
Asylum seekers gather outside the Foreshore offices of Home Affairs in Cape Town. (Tariro Washinyira/GroundUp)

Asylum seekers gather outside the Foreshore offices of Home Affairs in Cape Town. (Tariro Washinyira/GroundUp)

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Not even one out of six asylum seekers seeking refuge in South Africa are granted refugee status. 

Over the past 10 years, the Department of Home Affairs processed 633 395 applications, only granting 99 624 of these applications. 

This means 533 771 people, mostly coming from war-torn and severely distressed countries, had to leave South Africa or face deportation during this period.

However, there were 184 976 documented active asylum seekers in South Africa on December 31, 2018. 

These statistics are contained in parliamentary replies by Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to written questions by IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe, EFF MP Vuyani Pambo and DA MP Joe McGluwa.

The department has five Refugee Reception Centres – in Pretoria, Musina, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth. 

"The department does not provide shelter to asylum seekers and refugees," Motsoaledi said in response to McGluwa's question.

"All centres have security personnel. Centres have private security in uniform 24 hours, whilst the department's security personnel are present during the day."

According to Motsoaledi's answer, the department has personnel appointed at the Refugee Reception Centres to guide asylum seekers who want to legalise their stay in South Africa.

"The United Nations High Commission for Refugees is the UN agency operating in South Africa with offices and implementing partners across the country that is also assisting new and existing asylum applicants through the asylum process. The agency is fully equipped and mandated to provide support to both clients and the department," his answer reads.

READ: For asylum seekers, the long walk to freedom is still beyond reach

Research recently published by the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town found that almost 40% of migrant children in South Africa are undocumented, which means they run the risk of being stateless. 

McGluwa asked "whether any difficulty in obtaining a full birth certificate for any asylum seeker has been eradicated".

"There are no difficulties in registering children of asylum seekers born in South Africa. Asylum seekers are issued with recognition of birth document. It is the responsibility of the parents to take such document and submit them to the Refugee Reception Centre with immediate effect to allow their children proper registration and issuance of the asylum permit."

The highest number of asylum applications granted went to Somalians, with 36 512, followed by 25 953 successful applications for nationals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 18 022 for Ethiopians.

Ethiopians are the largest group of asylum seekers in the country with 50 135, followed by 34 754 nationals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 27 243 Bangladeshis and 14 861 Zimbabweans.  

According to the department's website an asylum seeker "is a person who has fled his or her country of origin and is seeking recognition and protection as a refugee in the Republic of South Africa, and whose application is still under consideration".

"In case of a negative decision on his application, he has to leave the country voluntarily or will be deported." 

A refugee "is a person who has been granted asylum status and protection in terms of the Refugee Act". 

"Under the 1951 United Nations Convention, a refugee can be a 'convention refugee' who has left his home country and has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group," reads the website.

Read more on:    home affairs  |  refugees
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