by AKANI CHAUKE
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – MORE than 153 000 asylum seekers waiting for years will have their cases heard and decided as South Africa revamps its asylum system.
The overhaul follows a US$9,6 million agreement (R148 million) between the Department of Home Affairs and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).
UNHCR is to provide $7 million and the Home Affairs the rest to set in motion a project to eliminate delays and the backlog in asylum decisions in a bid to revamp the refugee management system by 2024.
The applications will be determined under the Asylum Decisions Backlog Elimination Project.
Leonard Zulu, UNHCR’s representative in South Africa, said the work they have started would also ensure those in need of international protection have their refugee status recognised expeditiously.
“This project also supports efforts to maintain social cohesion between refugee and host communities,” the envoy said.
Problems in the asylum system led to some claims being stuck for over a decade waiting to be heard.
Of the 266 694 refugees and asylum-seekers in South Africa, two-thirds do not have access to the full rights and privileges of refugee status.
Valentin Tapsoba, Director of UNHCR’s regional bureau for Southern Africa, welcomed the revamp of the system.
The official applauded the government of President Cyril Ramaphosa and the people of South Africa for the agreement.
“This is truly in keeping with the spirit of ubuntu (humanity) and inclusivity South Africa is known for,” Tapsoba said.
– CAJ News