SA migration cruel: ACMS

A leading African institution for research, teaching and outreach on migration has bemoaned recent patterns of change in South African internal migration, which it fears could impact negatively on refugees.

The Johannesburg-based African Centre for Migration and Society said in its recently released quarterly migration report that the recent migration developments may affect the administrative justice accorded to asylum seekers in South Africa.

It raised concerns with the resumption of deportations to Zimbabwe following the completion of the Zimbabwe Documentation Process, the use of the First Safe Country principle at the border, the closure of the Johannesburg refugee reception office, plans to move all refugee reception offices to the border and changes in the Refugee Appeal Board rules.

“Concerns remain about the implications of the lifting of the moratorium for Zimbabweans in South Africa, particularly in light of the administrative deficiencies of the ZDP process,” said ACMS.

“Moreover, the department has characterised applicants under the ZDP as having previously been undocumented, which overlooks the fact that some of these individuals were previously in the asylum system. DHA has not stated whether these individuals will be able to re-enter the asylum system should they be rejected under the ZDP, creating a risk that they will be subject to refoulement—return to an area where they face a risk of persecution—once deportations resume.”

On the First Safe Country Principle, which South Africa has adopted to try and limit its humanitarian obligation to individuals fleeing conflict or, ACMS said that the principle must be implemented in a manner that protects the fundamental rights found in international refugee law, including a guarantee of fair asylum procedures in the transit or purported first safe country.

“Reports from organisations in Musina indicate that immigration officials have begun turning away asylum seekers on the basis of this principle, without conducting a proper consideration of whether asylum was available in the countries they transited,” added ACMS.

The organisation said that the DHA failure to re-open an office in Johannesburg, coupled with SA government’s intention to move all of the country’s refugee reception offices to the border would have serious rights implications for asylum seekers.

“The current situation raises significant administrative justice concerns for asylum seekers in Gauteng.”

Amended rules for the Refugee Appeal Board, which took effect in July, 2011 and which set out more stringent requirements for exercising the right to appeal, including providing detailed written reasons for the appeal, would create yet another problem.

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