After decades of awaiting decisions on their visa applications, asylum seekers can delight in the fact that Home Affairs and United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have signed what is described as a historic agreement for asylum seekers. This agreement will see the eradication of delays and backlog in application decisions by 2023.
Home Affairs plans on hiring more staff and getting technical support worth millions of Rands from the UNHCR to combat the appeals process backlog. With 185 000 refugees affected, Minister Motsoaledi says this agreement ensures that every refugee is protected under international law and South Africa’s Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Asylum seekers are rather sceptical of the practicality of this agreement, stating that they have not seen any changes being done by Home Affairs and there are not hopeful that the funds secured will be put to good use. Some asylum seekers are sceptical of the practicality of this decision, citing that they are already living in inhumane conditions and are forced to choose between either ‘reintegrating in South Africa or be repatriated into their home country’ – which ultimately goes against the Geneva Convention. The asylum seekers responding to this ‘historical agreement’ state they want to be resettled into a third country.
This hesitance stems from the Xenophobic undertones and attacks asylum seekers experience in South Africa. They state that authoritative bodies, like Home Affairs and the South African Police Services are doing the bare minimum to protect them.
Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi disagrees with this notion. Motsaoledi says, “African refugees have the same status as any South African when they come here, except the right to vote.” This ‘citizen status is not permanent and will undergo review after four years.