29 August 2013
Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media.
Allow me to thank you for attending this important briefing. Without any waste of time, I will go straight to what we have asked you to converge here for, which is the conclusion of the special dispensation offered to Angolan nationals to regularize their stay in South Africa over a 14 week period ending on Saturday 31 August 2013 of the Cessation of the Angolan Refugee Status as recommended by the UNHCR.
As you are aware, in October 2009, the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced to its member states a proposal to end Refugee Status for Angolans who fled Angola due to the civil war which ended in 2002.
Arising from this, the UNHCR embarked on a consultative process, with all relevant stakeholders and recommended that member states act in concert to achieve a uniform schedule for the implementation of the cessation of the refugee dispensation.
You will recall that in May cabinet decided to accord with the recommendations of the UNHCR by declaring its intention to cease according refugee status to persons who sought asylum on the basis of the Angolan civil war otherwise called the war of Independence.
As part of this process Cabinet also announced a window of opportunity for those affected persons who had been accorded refugee status to apply for regularization in terms of the Immigration regime.
According to our laws, the Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs (SCRA) is entrusted with the legal power to withdraw refugee status for those categories of people whose refugee circumstances have ceased.
The Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs announced its intention to review the status of affected Angolan refugees in accordance with their legislative powers.
DHA embarked on an extensive communication program with Angolan Refugees in our country via meetings, the media, stakeholders and through specially established help desks at our Refugee Reception Offices.
To take advantage of this window of opportunity Angolan refugees were required to reacquire their Angolan citizenship and produce their Angolan passports.
Assisted Return to Angola
The UNHCR working in close collaboration with the governments of the Republic of South Africa and Republic of Angola, announced a window of opportunity for the Angolan refugees who may be affected by the Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs process to review their refugee status and who on a voluntary basis wanted to return to Angola, to be assisted to return to their country.
We established one stop service points at Refugee Reception Offices on 29 May throughout the country to assist the Angolan refugees with advice and administrative processes. These one stop service points were staffed by DHA officials, UNHCR staff and officials from the Angolan Government.
We are pleased to inform you that approximately 60% Angolan refugees in South Africa visited the one stop service centres over the 14 week period.
We are encouraged that over 56% of those that visited the one stop centres have applied to resume their Angolan citizenship, through applying for Angolan passports.
We were able to immediately process 16% that came to the one stop centres with temporary resident’s permits in terms of the South African Immigration Act.
This option is available to those refugees who are able to produce their Angolan passports.
A small number of affected persons have applied for continued protection and their cases will be evaluated by the Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs.
Approximately 23% of refugees who visited the centres have opted for various alternative options available to them.
We are pleased with the positive turnout and wish to reiterate that the one stop service points will continue to operate until Saturday 31 August 2013.
Our Refugee Reception Offices will remain open on Saturday from 08h00 till 15h00 to assist and process those that had not visited our offices as yet.
We wish to thank the Angolan community for their co-operation and taking advantage of this window of opportunity to establish durable solutions to their status.