Pretoria – Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor today Thursday 20 June 2013 reconfirmed the Department’s intention to ensure that applications for asylum in South Africa are adjudicated more efficiently while providing effective and humane administrative assistance to genuine refugees.”
Minister Pandor was speaking in Tshwane at an event to mark the annual commemoration of World Refugee Day as declared by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Consistent with its intention over the last few years to highlight the plight of refugees, the UNHCR has declared the theme for 2013 as “1 family torn apart by war is too many.”
Minister Pandor further reaffirmed the centrality of the family unit as a building block of societies observing that “today there are more divided families than together families. One out of every two South African families lives without a father. Breaking it down further into ethnicity, 2 in 3 African families live without a father.”
With a the aim of ensuring the social fabric of society of restored through the family unit, in South African families as well as those of asylum seekers, the Minister committed government and its social partners to implementing a community diversity initiative throughout the country aimed at building communities of peace. Minister Pandor said, “We also hope to work closely with the UNHCR and relevant NGOs to find ways of encouraging integration and cooperation in all host communities. We hope we can persuade community leaders to create language teaching teams to help in learning local languages. We also plan to develop orientation programmes and information to all participants on refugee and international human rights law. We hope to be able to teach the value of diversity the positive attributes of diverse communities.”
Overhaul of the asylum seeker regime
With a view to ensuring South Africa is able to contribute to making the lives of refugees and asylum seekers more humane, Minister Pandor reiterated:
“We are taking steps to process applications more efficiently and fairly.
“We are reviewing our procedures and implementing a fast track capacity to process application status.
“Furthermore, we are strengthening our partnerships with international organisations including the UNHCR. This extends to finding durable solutions for refugees after a cessation has been declared by the United Nations and they are able to return to their homeland.
“We are also going to liaise very closely with neighbouring countries as part of developing a regional response to asylum seeker and refugee management within the Southern African Development Community (SADC).”
Finally Minister Pandor reiterated that while asylum is not intended to be permanent, South Africa, “recognise[s] the sterling role that the UNHCR plays in supporting the world community in upholding its commitments towards refugee and asylum-seekers despite the practical challenges.”