SAHRC calls on govt to deal with backlog of refugee applications

2016-06-20 18:04

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Durban – As the world observes World Refugee Day, the South African Human Rights Commission has called on the government to deal with the backlog of refugee applications and to extend the provision of basic services to all asylum seekers.

The commission has called on the government to comply with its obligations in terms of the Constitution and the Refugee Act of 1998.

SAHRC spokesperson Isaac Mangena said: "The commission also calls upon the people of South Africa to embrace the spirit of Ubuntu and to extend a hand of friendship and... empathy to all who find themselves on the shores of South Africa because of their displacement from their countries of birth."

June 20 marks the 16th anniversary of World Refugee Day.

Over the past few years, there have been xenophobic attacks, some resulting in deaths. Shops owned by foreign nationals around the country have also been looted in these incidents. In some instances, foreign nationals were displaced from their homes.

Mangena said: "For this year's commemoration of World Refugee Day, the secretary general of the United Nations has called on everyone to 'recall our common humanity, celebrate tolerance and diversity and open our hearts to refugees everywhere'."

He said the call came at a time when the world was seeing a growing number of asylum seekers and refugees in the wake of ongoing wars and conflicts in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan and the Central African Republic - sparking what has come to be known as the "Refugee Crisis".

Call for an end to conflicts, wars

He said this unprecedented increase in asylum seekers and refugees had resulted in the degeneration of the global refugee system and a humanitarian crisis around the world.

"The Commission recognises that people are forced to leave their countries of origin for a variety of reasons, such as fear for their lives in their own countries due to civil war, human rights violations or natural disasters.

"Others are fleeing situations of dire poverty and perceived hopelessness and are searching for a better life and economic opportunities."

Mangena said non-nationals who sought refuge in South Africa were entitled to enjoy all the rights in the Constitution, with the exception of the right to vote.

"In other words, fundamental human rights cannot be denied to anyone, regardless of their citizenship. The SAHRC promotes and protects the human rights of all people in South Africa, including non-nationals and it has condemned xenophobia, discrimination and abuse of non-nationals in several instances where these tendencies and behaviours became prevalent. The SAHRC also has a mandate to monitor immigration detention facilities."

The commission called on all heads of states, leaders of various formations across the globe and government officials around the world to comply with their obligations in terms of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and to do all they can to alleviate the plight of refugees in their respective countries.

"The Commission also calls upon all UN agencies to take every step... to bring to an end the conflicts and wars that are fuelling the increase in the current refugee crisis," said Mangena.  

Read more on:    sahrc  |  refugees

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