Statement: Addresss by Home Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma ahead of voting on the Refugee Amendment Bill


Address by Home Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma ahead of voting on the Refugee Amendment Bill, National Assembly, Cape Town

15 Mar 2011

Honourable Speaker

Honourable Deputy Minister Fatima Chohan

Honourable Members of the National Assembly

The democratic South African state has an unwavering and steadfast commitment to the protection of refugees as described in international conventions and protocols to which we are signatories, as well as our own laws.Indeed, our democracy is defined by respect for human rights and the protection of the vulnerable.

The Refugee Amendment Bill before you is therefore intended to streamline the process of application for asylum by making it more efficient, easy and credible for those who seek our protection. We should not subject those genuinely seeking asylum to long protracted processes. At the same time, we would like to be firm and very strict with those who are abusing the asylum system knowing very well that they are not refugees.

In terms of the current legislation, the Refugee Status Determination Officer who determines whether a person qualifies as a refugee or not, is a very junior person sometimes working alone. This contributes to inefficiency and sometimes corruption. We are therefore now proposing committees that will decide on the status of applications. Members of these committees will have different expertise required to adjudicate such matters, for example, in national affairs, international relations, politics and current affairs. They will make decisions efficiently while restoring the integrity of the process.

An application for asylum can have one of three possible outcomes: acceptance, rejection as manifestly unfounded, or rejection as unfounded. South Africa adheres to internationally accepted reasons for granting asylum status:

1. When a person has a well-founded fear of being persecuted by reason of his or her race, gender, tribe, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, is outside the country of his or her nationality and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country, or, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his or her former habitual residence is unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to return to it.
2. When there is external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or other events seriously disturbing public order in either a part or the whole of his or her country of origin or nationality, is compelled to leave his or her place of habitual residence in order to seek refuge in another place outside his or her country of origin or nationality
3. When a spouse or dependant of a person contemplated in point one and two.

If the reasons for application are outside the afore-mentioned parameters, an application is considered manifestly unfounded and according to the proposed amendments will be reviewed by the Director-General. Should the determination be supported by the finding of the Director-General, the applicants will be deported.

Should applicants use the afore-mentioned reasons but if during the interview, their case is found to be without merit and evidence of persecution is absent and their account therefore not entirely truthful, such applications are declared unfounded and applicants have the right to appeal.

As things stand an appeal process may take years to finalise. We are now proposing an Appeals Authority which can meet simultaneously in groups at different centres to consider applications which will go a long way towards expediting processes. The implementation of such proposals will cut short the waiting period and it will be easy to reconcile the findings of the committee as well as the determination of the DG in terms of the decision taken. Those who appeal unsuccessfully will be deported to their countries of origin.

Honourable speaker,

The amendment also provides for the registration of a child born of an asylum seeker in terms of the Births and Deaths Registration Act provided the birth certificate is submitted at any Refugee Reception Office in order to have the said child included as a dependent of such asylum seeker or refuge.

Finally, the amendment will ensure that refugee status granted erroneously by the Status Determination Committee “in good faith” or “in bad faith” may be withdrawn.

Honourable speaker,

Having passed through the various stages of deliberation in the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, we now hope that members of this House will vote in favour of the proposed amendments. The favourable approval from members of this House will indeed ensure South Africa upholds its commitment to human rights, as well as its international obligations.

I conclude by expressing my appreciation to the Chair of the Portfolio Committee Maggy Maunye, as well as other members of the Portfolio Committee for their tireless efforts in working on this Amendment Bill to ensure it will maintain South Africa’s reputation as a champion of human rights, as well as the dignity of all those who seek refuge and safety upon our shores.

I thank you.


Manusha Pillai

Department of Home Affairs

Tel: 012 432 6646

Cell: 082 389 3587

E-mail: [email protected]

Issued by: Department of Home Affairs
15 Mar 2011