Three stages are involved
when applying for:
a refugee permit in South Africa
process after entry into South Africa
decision regarding Refugee application
First phase – After entry in the Republic
Upon entry in South Africa, a person identifying him or herself as an asylum seeker is granted an Asylum Transit Permit.
This permit is valid for 14 days (five days under the new law – still not clear what the exact current practice is) and allows the holder to lodge an application with the refugee reception office, to make an application for asylum in terms of section 21 of the Refugees Act.
There is a high chance that the applicant is not successful to lodge his application during his first visit to the office due to long queues. Thus Applicants are advised to keep trying until they access the office and lodge their applications. A BI-1590 form must be filled in, within 14 days of entry into the Republic of South Africa.
Second phase – Application process
When the applicant is finally successful at entering the office and getting his or her application submitted the next phase starts.
It is at this phase that the fingerprints and photos of the Asylum Seeker are taken. The applicant must also complete the eligibility determination form in person. The form is free of charge and applicants who do not understand what is to be written on the form, must ask the refugee reception officer for assistance.
After capturing the relevant data and singing of the eligibility determination form the asylum seeker will be granted with an Asylum Seeker Permit.
The next stage is to determine whether the asylum seeker can qualify to obtain Refugee status.
An interview with the Refugee Status Determination Officer must be conducted. The interview can take course at the time the asylum seeker is completing the form or alternatively at another scheduled time.
Third phase – Decision regarding Refugee status application
The interview with a Refugee Status Determination Officer (RSDO) must take place within 30 days of the submission of application for Refugee status. Thus the RSDO is bound by clearly defined rules to ensure that the asylum seeker understands his or her rights and obligations as well as the procedure involved.
The applicant has the right to be assisted by a legal advisor as well as an interpreter if needed – the interpreter must be provided by the Refugee Reception Officer (RRO) or alternatively by the applicant, provided that one was not found on that day. In case of rejection after failure to provide proper interpreters the applicant may rely on the ground that he did not understand the process, because he had no interpreter, for a successful appeal.
THE Refugee Status Determination Officer HOLDS THE DISCRETION TO ACCEPT OR REJECT THE APPLICANT’S ASYLUM APPLICATION BASED ON THE INTERVIEW.
Please see also our previous article “Forced Migration – the tricky, dangerous path leading an asylum seeker to refugee status”