Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba says the South African constitution requires the country to observe its international obligations.
The minister was speaking on Morning Live as Monday marks World Refugee Day.
The day is observed to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees around the world.
This year, World Refugee Day also marks a key moment for the public to show support for families forced to flee.
Gigaba says it is our obligation as South Africans to protect refugees and recognize their rights.
“Those rights include the right to live where they want to live and be protected in those areas,” says Gigaba.
He says when it comes to refugees, South Africa has the most progressive legislation in the world but is still lacking in practice.
Currently there are 121 000 recognized refugees in the country, but each year the department receives applications for new asylum seekers.