Operation area


South Africa's national legislation incorporates the basic principles of refugee protection, including freedom of movement, the right to work, and access to basic social services. However, some public institutions do not recognize refugees' permits, preventing them from benefiting fully from these rights. The current socio-economic environment - high unemployment, poor service delivery, and economic inequality - has strained relations between refugees, asylum-seekers and host populations. South Africa continues to be a major destination for asylum-seekers, as well as migrants and others seeking better economic and social opportunities. There are confirmed reports of human smuggling and trafficking.

The asylum system is overwhelmed. The large number of applications has created a backlog, affecting the quality and efficiency of refugee status determination (RSD). Without a comprehensive immigration system, migrant workers and others sometimes try to make use of the asylum system to stay legally and gain access to South Africa's services. The Government is establishing a border-management agency to regulate immigration and, in July 2014, new regulations came into effect. RSD's is carried out only by the South African Home Affairs department.

South Africa's national legislation incorporates the basic principles of refugee protection, including freedom of movement, the right to work, and access to basic social services. However, some public institutions do not recognize refugees' permits, preventing them from benefiting fully from these rights. The current socio-economic environment - high unemployment, poor service delivery, and economic inequality - has strained relations between refugees, asylum-seekers and host populations.

South Africa continues to be a major destination for asylum-seekers, as well as migrants and others seeking better economic and social opportunities. There are confirmed reports of human smuggling and trafficking.

Needs and strategies

The main needs of refugees and asylum-seekers remain access to: documentation; a fair and functioning asylum system; basic social services, provided in national legislation and policy; occasional emergency assistance for the most vulnerable, including shelter and food; and social cohesion programmes.

CTRC will continue to provide support to the Department of Home Affairs, promote self-reliance, and enable local integration. Short-term material assistance will be provided for vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers who cannot access other essential assistance, such as shelter and food, until they can benefit from governmental social services.

We will intensify efforts to ensure that survivors of sexual and gender-based violence receive the necessary support and assistance. Special efforts will be made to pursue preventive actions and advocacy, including awareness campaigns, conflict resolution programmes and other community interventions aimed at promoting social cohesion

People of concern

The majority of refugees and asylum-seekers in the South Africa operation have fled the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the security situation in Somalia or are individuals who claim to have faced persecution in Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Zimbabwe.

There are approximately 65,000 recognized refugees in South Africa. Many of them have been there for years. In addition, at the end of 2013, there were 230,000 asylum-seekers awaiting decisions, according to Department of Home Affairs figures.

In January 2014, the Government of South Africa publicly stated that it is considering a visa for Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) economic migrants, which may reduce new asylum applications.