An unintended consequence of the country’s liberal asylum regime has been that migrants who are not genuine refugees but are seeking economic opportunities have used it to attempt to regularise their stay in South Africa.
This comment was made by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba as he addressed the World Refugee Day in Johannesburg on Monday.
“In terms of our asylum seeker regime‚ we are proud to be one of the few African countries which receives large volumes of asylum seekers‚ which does not have an encampment policy.”
Gigaba said the result had been that economic migrants had used the asylum regime to regularise their stay in South Africa.
“The sheer volume of applications from these migrants has placed an enormous burden on the refugee status determination process‚ which has disadvantaged genuine asylum seekers by delaying their decisions‚ in the past taking years where they should take no more than six months‚” Gigaba said.
He said resolving the strain on the country’s asylum seeker system would require new policy proposals and improved operational efficiency.
Gigaba said in terms of policy‚ the department will release for comment a Green Paper on International Migration.
“One of the issues which it will address are policy options for managing migration from and within Southern Africa.
“By better managing regional migration we hope to reduce abuse of the asylum application system. Work is also under way to improve our refugee policies.”
Gigaba said refugee status determination decisions must be concluded timeously for the system to work for asylum seekers.
Speaking at a media briefing afterwards‚ deputy home affairs minister Fatima Chohan said from 2008 to the present‚ the country had received under a million asylum seekers.
However‚ only about 200‚000 were granted refugee status. “You understand the abuse of process‚” Chohan said. Gigaba said although many people clogged the asylum seekers queue‚ government must not lose focus on genuine asylum seekers.
“In dealing with that reality‚ we must not blanket everybody as an asylum seeker because genuine asylum seeker will lose protection they deserve.” times