SEMINAR: Protection of Asylum Seekers, Refugees in South Africa

The African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) recently hosted Susan Tolmay of Amnesty International South Africa (AISA) who gave a presentation titled People on the Move: Protection of asylum seekers, refugees in South Africa.

Tolmay has been working in the area of gender and women’s rights for over seven years. Over the years she has been involved in a range of programmes around gender and the media, gender justice and mainly gender and governance.

In her presentation, she spoke about the main factors that make it difficult for asylum seekers to claim and receive refugee status in South Africa, and how these factors affect the financial, physical and psychosocial state of asylum seekers.

While a strong legal and human rights framework exists in South Africa, the implementation of existing laws and policies, and even court orders is starkly lacking.

Major issues that asylum seekers in the country face, include a lack of understanding or explanation of the asylum management system; lack of or poor-quality interpretation; lack of legal representation and poor decision-making including mistakes of fact, lack of sound reasoning, misapplication of local and international refugee law leading to high rejection rates – 96% rejection rate.

AISA embarked on research to gather its own data on the experiences of asylum seekers attempting to exercise their rights to get and remain documented in South Africa in order to develop a people-centered campaign to hold government accountable and change perceptions towards asylum seekers and refugees in the country.

After her presentation, ACMS doctoral fellow B Camminga facilitated a discussion between Tolmay and approximately 20 seminar attendees.

Listen to the seminar and follow-up discussion below:


About the author: Esther V. Kraler is an MA student in Ethnic and Migration Studies at Linköping University. She completed her BA in Transcultural Communication at the University of Vienna. With her work, Esther wants to tackle the unspoken, to shed light on how who we are and what we do is influenced by structural and personal realities and to support alternative possibilities of knowing/being/feeling in the world. She is currently an exchange student at ACMS, and is also a maHp intern.

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