Statement on World Refugee Day 2018


20 June 2018

Today we celebrate World Refugee Day, held annually on 20 June by the United Nations Refugee Agency. This day is important because it commemorates the strength, bravery and perseverance of millions of refugees worldwide who have fled their country of origin out of a fear of persecution.

The LRC’s Forced Migration focus area strives toward the realisation of a substantively equitable society by advocating for the development and implementation of a transformative legal framework in forced migration, one that advances and realises the rights of vulnerable persons seeking refuge in South Africa.

The LRC seeks to achieve this by:

  • Preventing the unlawful arrest and arbitrary detention of forced migrants and providing legal assistance;
  • Promoting and advancing access to an efficient adjudication system in the asylum process and documentation for forced migrants;
  • Promoting the integration of forced migrants in South Africa as a durable solution; and
  • Advancing the principle of family unity.

Litigating for asylum seekers

The Department of Home Affairs has increasingly failed to comply with court orders issued from various courts in South Africa. The LRC has represented thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in getting their permits renewed at various Refugee Reception Offices and also challenging the Department’s decision to close the Refugee Reception Office in Cape Town. Despite receiving successful judgments, the Department refuses to comply with the court orders. Their failure to comply has thus led to thousands of asylum seekers and refugees being prejudiced. 

The LRC has launched a case in the Western Cape High Court which seeks to hold the Department accountable through a dual process of a contempt of court application, and by seeking an order appointing a Special Master to ensure compliance with the two orders issued by our courts. The case has the potential of setting legal precedent in the use of a Special Master to craft effective remedies in enforcing court orders.

The LRC will continue to strive tirelessly towards the realisation of an equitable society. We are committed to the words by Justice Nugent:

“Human dignity has no nationality. It is inherent in all people – citizen and non-citizen alike – simply because they are human. Such dignity entitled people within the country to work, be respected and protected by the Bill of Rights.”

Justice Nugent in Minister of Home Affairs and Others v Watchenuka and Other