South Africa

UNHCR Global Appeal 2014 - 2015 - South Africa



Working environment

  • South Africa is party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, as well as to the 1969 OAU Convention. The country has a liberal asylum legislation that incorporates all basic principles of refugee protection including freedom of movement, the right to work and access to basic social services. However, refugees are not always able to fully enjoy these rights because some public institutions do not recognize their permits.

  • Refugees reside mainly in urban areas, spread across the country, making it challenging to reach those most in need.

  • Despite being a middle-income country, South Africa faces challenges with unemployment, service delivery, poverty and economic inequality, which puts refugees and asylum-seekers in competition with host populations.  South Africa is a major destination country for asylum-seekers as well as migrants and others looking for better economic and social opportunities. There are confirmed reports of human smuggling and trafficking, as well as instances of South Africa being used as a gateway to Europe, America and other countries.

  • The high numbers of applications lead to backlogs and have an impact on the quality and efficiency of the refugee status determination (RSD) process. Social service programmes also face challenges in supporting asylum seekers who are granted access to services in South Africa while awaiting a decision on their status.

  • The Government of South Africa supports international efforts to protect and assist refugees and asylum-seekers, in particular by providing them with access to health facilities, schools and social services.