25 January 2022

Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, MP, and Ms Gillian Triggs, the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, met today to review and also take forward the strategic approaches to the management of asylum and refugees in South Africa at the second High-Level Bilateral meeting in Pretoria.

The meeting was agreed to in March 2020 and was delayed as a result of Covid-19.

The meeting discussed strengthening of the asylum and refugee system in South Africa, including:

  • legislative reform
  • social assistance
  • judicial engagement
  • refugee status determination and the backlog project
  • durable solutions for refugees
  • statelessness
  • the Global Compact on Refugees
  • updating the Cooperation Agreement between Government of the Republic of South Africa and UNHCR


“This bilateral was instructed by our Cabinet to, amongst others, overhaul the management of the asylum system in South Africa with the intension to partner with UNHCR to provide increased technical assistance and resource mobilization support in order to enhance the  protection regime and strengthen our strategic partnership, said Minister Motsoaledi.

Both the Minister and the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection emphasised the need to strengthen the bilateral efforts to fight against the abuse of the asylum system while protecting its integrity. 

Minister Motsoaledi outlined that Government is reviewing the Refugee Act, the Citizenship Act and the Immigration Act to align them and simplifying them for everyone.

The Assistant High Commissioner appreciated that South Africa was reviewing these laws.

“We recognise that some of our laws were enacted in a period where things were very different to how they are now. We need to modernise our laws to reflect our current circumstances, based on our realities. South Africa does not have a problem with people who are legally seeking protection. The challenge is with those who are here illegally,” said Minister Motsoaledi.

UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner said that it was important to provide a speedy and fair determination of asylum claims. 

“Today we’ve made important progress towards making South Africa’s asylum system fairer and faster,” said Ms Triggs. “I know that governments around the world have faced challenges because of Covid but addressing the backlog in asylum claims will make a tangible difference to the lives of people coming here to seek protection.

“We need to work together with government to address their predicament. The UNHCR will be investing in a project with the government to strengthen the entire asylum system and resolve the existing asylum backlog and to ensure proper documentation.”

Ms Triggs also urged refugees and asylum-seekers to respect the local laws of the host country.


The full outcomes of the meeting can be viewed here; 



For media enquries:

Siya Qoza (for the Minister of Home Affairs) - 082 898 1657

Laura Padoan (External Relations Officer: SA Multi Country Office) - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.