detail - Foundation Office South Africa
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The South African
Constitution guarantees protection of fundamental rights to everyone present in the country. The
Refugees Act of 1998 ‘domesticated’ South Africa’s international refugee law obligations: it was
progressive and advanced in terms of the scope and content of refugee protection.Last month, the
Refugees Amendment Act (RAA) came into force. The government claims that the RAA seeks to remedy
weaknesses in existing legislation. Yet, the RAA has been criticised by refugees, rights activists, and
international organisations for being retrogressive and reneging on South Africa’s refugee protection
obligations. Controversially, the RAA restricts access to the asylum system for previously eligible
applicants, generally denies asylum-seekers access to employment, and facilitates the creation of
Asylum Processing Centres. It also threatens recognised refugees with cessation of their status and
possible deportation if they engage with their country of origin’s diplomatic missions or become
involved in its political affairs. The South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human
Rights and Constitutional Law (SAIFAC), a centre of the University of Johannesburg, is hosting a panel
to consider the ramifications of the RAA which will address the following issues:
- Is the RAA Act consistent with the South African Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights and the principle of the rule of law?
- Is the RAA consistent with international refugee law?
- What are the forces in South African society that led to the passing of this Act, and what do these changes mean for South Africa’s approach to refugees?
- Can the RAA address current challenges that arise in the South African asylum system?