Academic journal article Refuge

A Foot in the Door: Access to Asylum in South Africa

Academic journal article Refuge

A Foot in the Door: Access to Asylum in South Africa

Article excerpt

Abstract

Asylum seekers in South Africa experience extreme difficulties lodging their claims at the Department of Home Affairs. This paper utilizes new survey data to measure the extent of the Department's failures to provide access to the status determination process. The principal finding is that South African officials often go out of their way to prevent asylum seekers from entering the system. This provides support for the argument the Department is beholden to an institutional culture of immigration protectionism. This assessment differs from conventional analyses of poor African performance of status determination which emphasize issues of corruption and institutional capacity.

Abstract

Les demandeurs d'asile en Afrique du Sud rencontrent des difficultes extremes pour presenter leurs demandes au Departement des affaires interieures. Cet article utilise des donnees d'un nouveau sondage pour mesurer letendue des manquements du Departement vis-a-vis de son devoir de rendre accessible le processus de determination du statut. La conclusion principale est que les autorites Sud africaines severtuent souvent pour empecher les demandeurs d'asile d'acceder au systeme. Cela semble soutenir l'allegation que le Departement est prisonnier d'une culture institutionnelle de protectionnisme en matiere d'immigration. Cette evaluation se demarque des analyses conventionnelles de la mauvaise performance africaine en matiere de determination du statut qui, elles, soulignent des problemes de corruption et de manque de capacite institutionnelle.

You get stepped on. You are tired, you are bored and thirsty. You feel like you are dead and not human anymore. (1)

Introduction

Responding to a perceived need to prevent unwanted migration since the 1980s, many developed countries have instituted measures to limit access to asylum. While status determination processes and procedures in Africa have usually departed significantly from "best (and worst) practices" in the Global North, countries on the continent have taken a similar turn towards more limited access. (2) However, the provisions and procedures utilized by African states towards this end have differed from European, Asian, and North American counterparts. The main differences in developments on the continent need to be understood within the different body of international instruments which govern refugee protection, in particular the 1969 Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention governing the Specific Aspects of the Refugee Problem in Africa (the OAU Convention). The Convention envisages a framework of protection that takes into account the unique character of refugee flows in the continent and the unique capabilities of African states, providing specifically for group based or prima facie determination systems. (3) Despite these differences, status determination in Africa is not entirely different in character from counterparts elsewhere. While group based and UNHCR implemented determination systems are far more prominent across the region, status determination models in Africa often share important features with practices outside the continent. While it is unlikely that jurisprudence in non-African countries will ever afford much attention to African courts' interpretations of key provisions in the UN Refugee Convention, status determination issues in African countries will almost certainly impact upon developments and debates elsewhere, given the continent's disproportionate share of the world's refugee population.

It is in this respect that the South African case is particularly interesting. South Africa is currently attempting to meet a relatively ambitious and recent set of refugee commitments. The transition to democratic rule and relative stability in the 1990s saw the end of an era in which the Republic was both an international pariah and prominent refugee sending country. Over the last two decades, South Africa has acceded to international refugee conventions and passed its own Refugees Act (no. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.