Undisputed one of the global hot topics of the present day world; refugees, their impact on societies and how best to deal with them.
Which steps are to be taken by those seeking for a legal status after being forced to leave home?
Europe is faced with a so labelled ‘refugee crisis’, emergency meetings with the senior leaders of Western states have been regularly conducted over the past year to form action plans on dealing with the influx of asylum seekers.
Also one may argue that differing political opinions within the United Kingdom concerning the appropriate manner in which to deal with refugees has been an important factor leading towards Brexit. No need to further emphasize that dealing with people whom are seeking the protection of another state is an essential topic nowadays; all countries need to ensure that their refugee policy is carefully drafted.
Also in the African context the topic remains very high on the priority list. South Africa, being the most developed country in the Southern African region, attracts many refugees as well as ‘’gold seekers’’.
Malusi Gigaba, the Minister of Home Affairs in South Africa has recently stated the following: in the context of Ubuntu we must understand that refugees are people like you and I, and are not to be treated as numbers. These are precious people full of hopes, dreams and great ideas which can only be successfully implemented if they get support from a state willing & able to protect their human rights.
A wonderful, welcoming statement.
Simultaneously South Africans will clearly remember last year’s xenophobic attacks, in which a number of foreign nationals were assaulted and found a tragic end. It is very hard to distinguish between people whom come to South Africa after fleeing their homes due to well-founded fears and people whom arrive to simply enter South Africa looking for ‘’a better life’’. The tension between these two distinct groups is intense. Ironically, all over the world refugees are likely to be blamed for pre-existing problems such as high unemployment rates and increased crime statistics. Whether the people just come to protect their lives and that of their family or when they are indeed merely trying to create a better economic situation is extremely hard to determine.
It is important for governments to live up to their legal and moral obligations to comply with standard procedures to judge which people are arriving for ‘’the right reasons’’.
There are several steps an asylum seeker must take in South Africa in order to obtain refugee status. This shall give the applicant more legal rights, the possibility to work / study and after 5 years, if the reasons which were in existence when the applicant first applied for refugee status are unchanged, the applicant can even obtain Permanent Residence.
Distinction between asylum seekers and refugees
Before proceeding it is important to clarify the distinction between asylum seekers and refugees. In day to day common usage the terms are interchangeable. However, in legal terms, an asylum seeker is a person seeking the protection of another state claiming to have proper reasons to do so.
A refugee on the other hand is somebody whom has been granted the requested protection after it was established that the applicant has a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, social group, tribe or political opinion and his / her government is unable or unwilling to protect him / her. Additionally, any person whom has fled his or her country of origin because of external aggression, foreign domination or events which are seriously disturbing the public order (e.g. Civil War) and these events pose a threat to his / her physical safety is entitled to obtain the Refugee status.