South African Government Proposes to Remove 'Relics' of White Minority Rule in Migration Laws
© AP PhotoIn this Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019 file photo police clash with protesters outside the U.N. refugee agency's offices in Cape Town, South Africa.
© AP Photo
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there are approximately 250,250 refugees and asylum seekers living in South Africa. To strengthen the country's asylum system, the South African Department of Home Affairs joined forces with the agency in January 2021 to eliminate the asylum backlog of approximately 153,000 cases by 2024.
South African government has released a white paper outlining the authorities' proposals to overhaul and simplify South Africa's citizenship, immigration and refugee protection laws, getting rid of what they consider "a relic of the colonial era," the country's Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi revealed in a media briefing.
"The South African Citizenship Act is a relic of the colonial era and a replica of the 1949 citizenship act under the union of South Africa. In practice, these pieces of legislation are not in harmony with each other," the minister noted.
Motsoaledi also highlighted that during the apartheid era, predominantly white nationals of some states were granted refugee status by the country.
"During the apartheid era, South Africa did not accede to any of the international or regional conventions relating to the status of refugees and asylum seekers. South African administered its own refugee policy on an ad hoc basis, granting refugee status mostly to white nationals from Zimbabwe, Portugal and Mozambique. [...] The preferences of whites over nonwhites, so-called nonwhites or blacks, became the focus of the immigration policy," the official revealed.
He emphasized that the government is proposing to review or withdraw from the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and its Protocol, to which South Africa acceded after the country's first democratic elections, "without the government having developed a clear policy on migration, including refugee protection."
The minister explained that as the state "did not make reservations and exceptions permitted in terms of international law," this convention and protocol does not allow South Africa to deal with a migration crisis in the country, where about 20,000 undocumented immigrants arrive annually, according to the government's data.
Therefore, among the White Paper suggestions is to revise the country's refugee laws, preventing the state from refusing entry, expelling, or extraditing asylum seekers and refugees, Motsoaledi said.
"The White Paper proposes that the government of the republic of South Africa must review, and/or withdraw from, the 1951 Convention [on Refugees] and 1967 Protocol. [...] We need to press a reset button," Motsoaledi said.
Furthermore, the White Paper proposals include replacing the country's multiple citizenship, refugee and immigration acts with a singular law, revision and simplification of the "nightmare" immigration system, which has 17 different types of visas as well as the establishment of an advisory board on immigration, the minister said.
There are about 250,250 refugees and asylum-seekers in South Africa, according to the UN Refugee Agency. With a view to strengthen the country's asylum system, South Africa and the UN agency launched a project in 2021, which aims to clear the asylum backlog of approximately 153,000 cases by 2024, the agency revealed.