2013 UNHCR country operations profile - South Africa
By the end of 2011, some 220,000 asylum-seekers mainly from Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Somalia and Zimbabwe were registered in South Africa. The country continues to be the recipient of the highest annual number of asylum applications worldwide, with 106,904 applications in 2011. However, this figure represents a 64 per cent reduction in comparison with 2010, the first such decline in four years. The reduction may be attributed to a number of factors, including a more stable political and socio-economic situation in Zimbabwe and the imposition of restrictive measures by countries in the subregion and beyond to reduce mixed-migration movements.
Although the asylum and immigration system remains conducive to the reception of asylum-seekers and refugees, the relevant legal framework is currently undergoing reforms. This has made access to asylum challenging, particularly for individuals from non-neighbouring countries, who may be denied refuge in South Africa on the basis of the "first country of asylum" policy. Tighter border controls, implemented to reduce irregular movements and fraudulent asylum claims by immigrants, have also played a role in lessening the number of applications.
As of December 2011, some 63,000 people, mainly from Angola, Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda and Somalia, had been recognized as refugees in South Africa. They have been granted freedom of movement, permission to work and the right to access basic social services through grants. However, documentation problems have made it difficult for refugees to enjoy these rights fully.
The South African asylum system continues to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of asylum applications it receives, making it difficult to ensure that the refugee status determination (RSD) process is always fair and efficient. Hence, supporting the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to improve the quality and quantity of its status decisions remains a priority for UNHCR.
Furthermore, refugees with disabilities, the elderly and children in foster care who qualify for government grants face obstacles in obtaining them. Refugees often receive documents valid only for short periods, making it difficult for them to hold long-term jobs.
Recurrent xenophobic attacks on refugees hampers their integration into local communities. Indeed, fear of attack in the townships forces many refugees to live in more expensive inner-city areas. Accommodation in shelters is temporary and only available for the most vulnerable. UNHCR will continue to increase resettlement submissions from South Africa, particularly for refugees with vulnerabilities that cannot be addressed in the country.
|UNHCR 2013 planning figures for South Africa|
|TYPE OF POPULATION||ORIGIN||JAN 2013||DEC 2013|
|TOTAL IN COUNTRY||OF WHOM ASSISTED
|TOTAL IN COUNTRY||OF WHOM ASSISTED
Main objectives and targets for 2013
Favourable protection environment
Access to legal assistance and legal remedies is improved.
Legal services and clinics are established in each of the nine provinces of the country.
Some 80,000 persons of concern receive legal assistance.
Basic needs and essential services
Shelter and infrastructure are established, improved and maintained.
Three-month transitional shelter grants are provided to 25,000 individuals and families.
Community empowerment and self-reliance
Self-reliance and livelihoods are improved.
Some 2,000 people receive conditional grants to start businesses.
Some 2,000 people receive guidance on business market opportunities.
The quality of registration and profiling is improved or maintained.
All registration staff receive training on gathering information and compiling statistics.
The risk of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is reduced and the quality of the response to it improved.
Some 1,000 SGBV survivors receive legal representation, accommodation in safe houses, counselling, medical aid and grants to establish businesses.
Some 30 training sessions on SGBV prevention and response are conducted.
Strategy and activities in 2013
UNHCR will advocate for the asylum space established in South Africa to be maintained, allowing both refugees and asylum-seekers to work and study. In view of challenges related to registration and data management, UNHCR will work with the DHA to review the latter's registration and data management systems in order to identify gaps and find solutions.
Activities that promote self-reliance and ease local integration will receive strong UNHCR support. The Office will also continue to provide short-term material assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers with specific needs and help implementing partners to integrate such cases into national and charitable social-service programmes. In addition, UNHCR will create and maintain capacity within the community to respond to SGBV. Public-information materials and tools aimed at promoting tolerance and coexistence will continue to be produced, and resettlement will be used as a protection tool.
UNHCR will advocate for the adoption of the international conventions on statelessness and for national legislation to be made consistent with them. It will also increase efforts to identify stateless people in the region and the root causes of their predicament. Moreover, effective responses to prevent and reduce statelessness will be developed. UNHCR will team up with other UN agencies, civil society and academia to train key stakeholders in order to prevent statelessness and support legal partners working on individual cases of statelessness.
Despite favourable protection policies, implementation of refugees' rights remains a challenge. The imposition of the principle of "first country of asylum" continues to reduce the rights of asylum-seekers.
Furthermore, the lack of employment opportunities for nationals causes tensions between them and refugees, limiting the latter's self-reliance and local-integration opportunities and often making them victims of xenophobic attacks.
Organization and implementation
The Regional Representation in South Africa provides strategic and policy direction, regional coordination, management oversight and technical support to the country operations in Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. UNHCR South Africa has field offices in Cape Town and Musina. The Pretoria office is directly responsible for UNHCR's programmes and activities in South Africa as well as in Comoros, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Swaziland.
In South Africa, UNHCR will continue its collaboration with relevant government departments and parliamentary committees. Regular consultations with the DHA at all levels help to build mutual trust and a good working relationship. UNHCR will support the DHA with technical advice, and work closely with the Department of Social Development and relevant NGOs on social assistance.
Cooperation with IOM will improve logistical support for refugees in resettlement and voluntary repatriation programmes.
UNHCR will collaborate closely with other UN agencies through the UN Communications Group, UN HIV and AIDS Theme Group and the United Nations Strategic Cooperation Framework process. Furthermore, as the lead agency for the Protection Working Group (PWG), UNHCR will coordinate protection monitoring and common advocacy and media approaches on key protection issues, joint outreach and resource mobilization.
The level of funding for the South Africa operation has remained relatively unchanged over the last two years despite growing needs in the areas of social support, legal assistance and response to xenophobia. In 2013, the emphasis will be placed on supporting the DHA to improve the quality and quantity of RSD decisions as well as on programmes to promote tolerance and co-existence to enhance local integration and self-reliance. As a result, the budget for 2013 will total USD 37.4 million, slightly more than the 2012 budget of USD 35.1 million.
Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2013 Update