Government tightens its grip on refugees and asylum seekers

05 January 2020 - 10:20 By Linda Ensor
Refugees queuing outside home affairs offices. File photo.
Refugees queuing outside home affairs offices. File photo.
Image: Sowetan

Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi has gazetted tough new regulations to control the movements and activities of refugees and asylum seekers, including a ban on political activity and immediate detention on grounds of national security.

The regulations under the Refugees Act, which took effect from January 1, stipulate that “no refugee or asylum seeker may participate in any political activity or campaign in furtherance of any political party or political interests in the Republic”.

The refugee status of any person who engages in such activity can be withdrawn by the standing committee for refugee affairs, and they will be dealt with as an illegal foreigner in terms of the Immigration Act, reported BusinessLIVE.

Under the act, a refugee or asylum seeker can be removed from the republic on grounds that they pose a threat to national security. The regulations allow for their immediate detention under these circumstances.

The past week has seen violent clashes between rival groups of refugees camped on Cape Town’s Greenmarket Square and in the nearby Central Methodist Mission. The group, which has split into factions, is demanding relocation to a safer country.

The regulations also make it more difficult for refugees and asylum seekers to enter SA in the first place, requiring, among other things, that they present a valid asylum transit visa from the country through which they travelled at the port of entry. They will also need to provide valid identification and submit biometric data.

All applications for asylum will have to be accompanied by a transit visa or, in certain circumstances, a valid visa issued in terms of the Immigration Act. The asylum seeker visa will contain the conditions under which the asylum seeker will be able to temporarily reside in SA, seek employment and obtain basic education.

“Prior to issuing any right to seek employment to an asylum seeker, an assessment must be completed to establish such person’s ability to sustain himself or herself and any dependents,” the regulations say.

Refugee status can also be terminated if a refugee has “reavailed” themselves of the protection of the country of origin, such as by seeking consular services at any diplomatic mission representing the country of origin. This would include applying for any official document, such as a travel document or citizen-related document, at a diplomatic mission or presenting themselves on their premises.


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