SA committed to treating asylum seekers with dignity

Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize says the country's ports of entry remain open to asylum seekers, allowing them access to health services and education opportunities.

In reaffirming our commitment to the rule of law and universal declaration of human rights, we also ensure that failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants are treated in a humane manner throughout the process of repatriating them to their countries of origin, the Minister said.

Speaking at the 68th session of the Executive Committee of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Minister Mkhize said her department works closely with partners like the International Red Cross, South African Human Rights Commissions and advocacy groups, motivated by high standards of Ubuntu, which in essence recognises that all humanity is deserving of dignity.

Government has invested in technology upgrades at refugee centres, starting with the busiest refugee centre located in the country's economic heartland, renamed after our own Nobel Laureate, 'Desmond Tutu,' in Gauteng province.

This investment in technology upgrade has realised efficiencies and qualitative improvements in processing new asylum applications, which include paperless capturing of asylum claims, allowing self-services for existing asylum applicants wishing to extend permits where adjudication is still pending and booking terminals for persons seeking various services such as family joining, Minister Mkhize said.

According to the Minister, between 2006 and 2015, South Africa received over one million asylum applications, amounting to one third of the asylum applications received by the whole European Union as a block.

All these applicants have been adjudicated at the first instance, while a significant number are awaiting finalisation of their appeals.

Persons who are indefinite refugees are able to apply for permanent residence, which in turn paves the way for citizenship, the Minister said.

Since 2016 until June 2017, a total of 2 123 applications for permanent residency certification have been considered and 924 have already received certification.

Source: South African Government News Agency