After the transition to a democratic rule in 1994, the South African government quickly affirmed its commitment to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. This was followed by the passage of the Refugees Act (Act No. 130 of 1998) and its implementing Regulations (2000). Together, these laws created a legal and institutional framework for the reception, status determination and protection of asylum seekers, as well as setting out the rights of those who are granted refugee Status, as noted in The Forced Migration Studies Program at the University of the Witwatersrand Special Report.
South Africa has been the primary destination for many displaced Africans. On this Africa Day, the GI ADVISORY applauds the efforts made by the Department of Home Affairs, Refugee Reception Officers, Human Rights Watch activists and ordinary South Africans who continue to empower, research, educate and advise on refugee matters. The “Special Dispensation Permits” issued to Zimbabweans in 2009 are one of the many efforts by the South African government to legalise the Zimbabwean stay, give them working rights, access to basic health care and education. Such decisions lessen the migrants’ exposure to violence, exploitation, deportation and attempts on identity fraud, to mention a few.
The Department of Home Affairs has opened several refugee reception centers such as the Cape Town, Durban, Musina, Port Elizabeth and the Pretoria Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception centers. All these are efforts we acknowledge and applaud as they exude the spirit of Ubuntu highly revered by the African people. These centers might not perform to their best ability and we cannot deny that there is room for improvement, but we celebrate their establishment, financial investment, labour and expertise as the South African government continue to cater for displaced people.
The issuing of asylum documents in these listed refugee reception centers is a grand active gesture to many displaced Africans and goes a long way to highlight just how much the South African government has an interest in addressing asylum seekers grievances. It is an effort to be encouraged. As the continent celebrates this Africa Day, it is worth mentioning that the South African government has put in place programmes to assist with proper documentation for asylum seekers to apply for refugee Status. It has made efforts in ensuring that asylum seekers are offered basic health care and have a fair share in competing for employment.
Speaking from personal experience, I am truly grateful for the healthcare service I experienced back in 2016 when I was admitted at the Charlotte Maxeke academic hospital, I am certain that if I was in my country of origin, I would have died due to the poor medical care system we have here. And yet in South Africa, I was operated on, treated, offered counselling free of charge despite my nationality.
Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital even offered to take care of my after admission support. I am grateful because the cost for the whole procedure in a private hospital would have been about R20 000 or more. In the wards, there were Congolese, Nigerians and other Africans receiving treatment. The nurses even put effort into finding translators for the Western Africans who spoke French. My point is, I think that South Africa does have an interest to assist as much as possible even when the assistance may not be as perfect as expected by the refugees themselves.
The GI ADVISORY is available for workshops, full presentations and lectures in migration, as well as advisory services to individuals, groups of people and organisations. These services can be offered virtually or in person for a reasonable fee.