Academic journal article Refuge

An Evaluation of South Africa's Application of the OAU Refugee Definition

Academic journal article Refuge

An Evaluation of South Africa's Application of the OAU Refugee Definition

Article excerpt


This paper undertakes an analysis of South Africa's application of the OAU Convention's expanded refugee definition. It finds that in the first stage of South Africa's refugee status determination process, government officials tasked with individually determining refugee status seemingly make use of the OAU Convention's refugee definition and basic country of origin information in a unique form of prima facie refugee determination. In this regard, improved training of officials is essential in order to ensure that the appropriate level of protection to all asylum seekers is afforded in terms of the definition. At the South African Refugee Appeal Board level, however, due to the in-depth nature of the decisions rendered, the OAU refugee definition is more correctly, yet cautiously, utilized to provide protection to persons fleeing indiscriminate widespread disruption of public order or generalized violence. This research is the first of its kind to analyze select decisions of the South African Refugee Appeal Board.


Cet article entreprend une analyse sur la facon dont la definition elargie de refugie proposee par la Convention de l'OUA est appliquee par l'Afrique du Sud. Il conclut qu'au premier stade de la procedure Sud africaine de determination du statut de refugie, les responsables gouvernementaux charges de la determination du statut de refugie au niveau individuel semblent utiliser la definition de refugie contenue dans la Convention de I'OUA ainsi que l'information de base sur le pays d'origine pour faire une determination prima facie, unique en son genre, du statut de refugie. A cet egard, il est imperatif que les responsables gouvernementaux recoivent une meilleure formation afin d'assurer un niveau de protection approprie a tous les refugies en ce qu'il s'agit de la definition. Cependant, au niveau du South African Refugee Appeal Board (la Commission d'appel des refugies de l'Afrique du Sud), vu la nature approfondie des decisions rendues, la definition de refugie de l'OUA est plus correctement--mais aussi prudemment--utilisee pour fournir une protection aux personnes qui fuient des perturbations etendues et indiscriminees de l'ordre public, ou la violence generalisee. Cette etude est la premiere en son genre a analyser des decisions selectionnees du South African Refugee Appeal Board (la Commission d'appel des refugies de l'Afrique du Sud).


The 1969 OAU Convention Governing Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (1) (OAU Convention) is, to date, the only legally binding regional refugee treaty and is regarded as a "cornerstone of refugee protection in Africa. (2) Nearly forty years on, the OAU Convention remains an essential means of providing protection to large numbers of persons who are forced to flee their countries of origin due to indiscriminate widespread disruption of public order or generalized violence, with its most celebrated feature being the expansion of the refugee definition (3) to provide protection to such persons.

South Africa's refugee protection system is still in its nascent stage of development, having only commenced after the demise of Apartheid regime in the mid 1990s. In 1995 and 1996 respectively, South Africa signed the OAU Convention and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention). (4) Shortly thereafter, South Africa enacted its Refugees Act 130 of 1998, which became operational in the year 2000. The Refugees Act incorporates both the 1951 Convention and OAU Convention refugee definitions, thus providing for expanded refugee protection in the Republic. (5)

The OAU refugee definition and the OAU Convention as a whole have not been subject to much interrogation; neither have they been the subject of much international jurisprudence. Similarly, South Africa's analysis of the OAU refugee definition has been less than noteworthy. To date, there exist no published Refugee Appeal Board decisions, or reported or unreported South African High Court decisions that have interpreted the OAU refugee definition. …

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


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.