Refugees Amendment Bill passes another hurdle

The National Council of Provinces on Tuesday endorsed the Refugees Amendment Bill, which was passed in the National Assembly on March 15.

This paves the way for President Jacob Zuma to sign the Bill into law.

Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said South Africa had an “unwavering and steadfast” commitment to the protection of refugees as described in its own laws as well as in international conventions and protocols.

The Bill was intended to streamline the process of application for asylum by making it more efficient, easy and credible for those seeking South Africa’s protection.

“We should not subject those genuinely seeking asylum to long, protracted processes. At the same time, we would like to be firm and very strict with those who are abusing the asylum system knowing very well that they are not refugees.”

Dlamini-Zuma said an application for asylum could have one of three possible outcomes, namely acceptance, rejection as manifestly unfounded or rejection as unfounded.

The Bill introduced an appeals authority which could meet simultaneously in groups at different centres to consider applications.

“The implementation of such proposals will cut short the waiting period and it will be easy to reconcile the findings of the committee as well as the determination of the [director general] in terms of the decision taken.”

Those who appealed unsuccessfully would be deported to their countries of origin.

The amendment also provided for the registration of a child born of an asylum seeker in terms of the Births and Deaths Registration Act, provided the birth certificate was submitted at any Refugee Reception Office in order to have the child included as a dependent of the asylum seeker or refugee.

It would also ensure that refugee status granted erroneously by the status determination committee “in good faith” or “in bad faith” could be withdrawn.—Sapa

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