Academic journal article Refuge

Contextual Introduction to UCT Refugee Rights Unit Special Section

Academic journal article Refuge

Contextual Introduction to UCT Refugee Rights Unit Special Section

Article excerpt

Since the mid 1990's, South Africa has received a steady increase in the number of asylum seekers and in 2010 it registered the most individual asylum seeker applications globally, (1) confirming its position as an important destination for asylum seekers from throughout Africa and further afield. For the past fifteen years, the University of Cape Town's (UCT) Refugee Rights Unit has been providing free legal services to refugees and asylum seekers. Over this time, the Unit has beheld a South African refugee protection regime that excels on paper, with a laudable piece of domestic refugee legislation that promotes the local integration of an urban refugee population, however one that has failed in its implementation.

The government of South Africa has consistently been unable to carry out its legal mandate to efficiently and effectively conduct refugee status determinations and provide enabling documentation to refugees. It has also failed in promoting an overall environment of protection of the rights of refugees, and it regularly acts unlawfully. More concerning, in light of the direct implications on refoulement, the government has begun to implement a major shift in its refugee policy. It has embarked on the closure of Refugee Reception Offices in the major urban centres, such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, and is pursuing a policy to ultimately move the reception centres to the borders and to restrict the rights of asylum seekers, including their freedom of movement and right to work, pending the final determination of their claims.

With the above in mind, the following four papers in this [special section] focus on some of the specific protection gaps that the UCT Refugee Rights Unit has identified within this current fragile refugee protection regime in South Africa. …

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