Common Understanding – Our Starting PointCommon Good
The subject of foreign nationals, refugees, and asylum seekers is a complex topic around the world but especially in South Africa. Here are some key terms and definitions to help you understand the landscape of the discussion, so that we’re literally ‘speaking the same language’.
Foreign National – a person who is not a naturalised citizen of the country in which they are living.
Asylum Seeker – a person who has left their home country as a political refugee and is seeking asylum in another.
The Government of the Republic of South Africa has an obligation to grant protection to refugees and other persons in need of protection under a number of UN conventions such as the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
What steps should someone take to become an Asylum Seeker?
- A person enters the Republic of South Africa through a port of entry (a land border post, airport, or harbor), claims to be an asylum seeker, and is, therefore, issued with a section 23 Permits which is a non – renewable “asylum transit permit” of the Immigration Act.
- The permit is valid for a period of 14 days only and authorises the person to report to the nearest Refugee Reception Office in order to apply for asylum in terms of section 21 of the Refugee Act.
More about the SA government’s policies and services for Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Refugee – a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.
Refugee Status Determination
Before an Asylum Seeker’s permit expires, they need to report to the Refugee Reception Office for:
- A second interview is conducted by a Refugee Status Determination Officer (RSDO)
- The RSDO proceed with a fair adjudication of the application, makes a decision on claims for asylum application, and provides reasons for the decisions. The RSDO must, on conclusion of the status determination hearing, grant asylum; or reject the application as manifestly unfounded, abusive, or fraudulent; or refer any question of law to the Standing Committee for Refugee Affairs (SCRA).
- When granted asylum (written recognition of refugee status), a refugee is generally issued with a section 24 permit, which allows such person to remain for a specified period of 2 years in South Africa, and it is renewable upon expiration of its validity after the review process by an RSDO. In this case, the refugee must write a letter requesting the extension of his or her refugee status.
- The refugee is also allowed to work and study in South Africa whilst the permit is valid.
More about the SA Refugee Act
For more on this specific topic, we recommend this interesting article
Immigrant – a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.
Economic Migrant – a person who travels from one country or area to another in order to improve their standard of living.
Sojourner – someone who stays temporarily in a place.
Afrophobia – a perceived fear of the cultures and peoples of Africa, as well as the African diaspora.
Xenophobia – dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Where is ‘Home Affairs Cape Town’?
A: In the Fair Cape Building, 56 Barack Street. Cape Town. Western Cape 8001
021 468 4501
- Death Registration
- ID Document applications,
- Immigration & Permitting Services
Q: What does the country’s consulate do?
A: A foreign country’s help and advice is provided by the diplomatic agents of a country to citizens of that country who are living or traveling overseas. But this is subject to each country’s policies with foreign nations.
Assistance from a consulate can include:
- Replacement of documents
- Advice or support in accidents, illness, or death
- Liaison with local police officials in the case of nationals abducted or missing overseas
- Help during events of civil unrest and natural disasters
- Registering births abroad