Asylum seekers entering South Africa face many obstacles including the constant threat of deportation, government red tape, xenophobia, and lack of social and medical assistance.
In May 2008 and in the months that followed, the public’s attention was focused tragically on the violent xenophobic attacks on foreigners, many of whom are asylum seekers, in South Africa. The attacks took place mostly in Gauteng and in the Western Cape, and many of these once-integrated community residents are now starkly displaced as outsiders. One of the ways in which the response to this crisis did not meet the need was in the lack of provision of adequate and safe accomodations and in the lack of planning for the effective re-integration of displaced persons.
All of the issues that asylum seekers and refugees face in South Africa are not necessarily of a legal nature and therefore the LRC is not able to assist in each case. We focus our energy on the issues which often undermine the basic human rights of refugees and asylum seekers.
Applications for refugee status:
The Refugee Act makes provision for an asylum claim to be processed within 180 days of receipt. However, there are huge backlogs in the number of claims that are processed. Many asylum seekers with valid claims are also rejected and denied asylum.
Refugee identity cards / travel documents:
There has been much delay with the roll out of the new smartcard identity cards for refugees. The process of obtaining proof of identity is further being frustrated, as the book form of identity document is also not issued by Refugee Affairs.
Refugees suffer greatly as a result of this, as their status is often not recognised. For example, it is impossible for a refugee to open a bank account without an identity document.
Applications for permanent as well as temporary residence are another area of concern. The Department has recently decided that a foreigner cannot hold more than one permit at a time and that refugees should not change their status or asylum seekers their permits if they marry South African citizens, or have children with South African citizens.