Policy Shifts in the Asylum Process in South Africa Resulting in Hidden Refugees and Asylum Seekers

  • Fatima Khan University of Cape Town
  • Megan Lee University of Cape Town
Keywords: Refugee, Policy shifts, Irregular migration, South Africa, Asylum Seekers

Abstract

Over the past few years, the protection space for asylum seekers in South Africa has steadily shrunk. The South African government has shifted its policies and attitude to exclude rather than accept refugees, and there is a clear move towards confining refugees to the borders of the country. These policy shifts have resulted in an expansive population of hidden and undocumented refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa. This article will analyse recent South African court cases, concerning access to the asylum process, in order to identify and understand the policy shifts adopted by the Department of Home Affairs, as well as the consequences that these policy shifts have had for the undocumented refugees and asylum seekers themselves. This article posits that the South African government, through its restrictive and exclusionary policies, has contributed to the creation of a mass population of hidden or undocumented refugees and asylum seekers, forcing many with prima facie refugee claims to remain in the country unprotected. Through a set of interviews with refugees and asylum seekers in Cape Town, this article presents a first-hand account of the obstacles faced by refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa, including those that force them to remain undocumented in the country.

Author Biographies

Fatima Khan, University of Cape Town

University of Cape Town, Law Faculty, Refugee Rights Unit

Megan Lee, University of Cape Town

University of Cape Town, Law Faculty, Refugee Rights Unit