01 October 2013
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Antonio Guterres,
It is indeed my pleasure to deliver this statement, on behalf of the Government and People of the Republic of South Africa. Our delegation would like to assure you of our full co-operation during this session of the Executive Committee. I would also like to align my delegation to the statement delivered on behalf of the African Group.
We wish to commend the sterling work done by the leadership of the UNHCR on the protection of the vulnerable refugee populations of the world in multiple crises situations in 2012 and 2013.
We would like to reaffirm its commitment to support the annual programme of the UNHCR.
The Government of South Africa would like to express its deepest sympathy and condolences to the peoples of Kenya, Nigeria, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and Iraq who have recently lost a large number of innocent civilians due to indiscriminate violence.
We have stated our intention to adhere to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The circumstances that pertained at the time of the crafting of their Conventions are materially different from the prevailing modern realities. They require further collective consideration and reflection. Chairperson, the South African government is wholeheartedly committed to fulfilling and realising the values and principles which underpin these instruments. Including your call for eradicating statelessness within a decade.
We are committed to contributing to a world where no peoples are left stateless through the redefinition of political borders or non-registration of children at birth including the repudiation or non-recognition of citizenship of groups of peoples.
We would like to emphasize that our own efforts have been directed at addressing the legacy of non- registration of South African citizens during the Apartheid era and we are pleased to report significant strides in this area. In addition in September 2012 South Africa hosted the AU/UN Ministerial Conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics with the aim of enhancing efforts to implement National Population Registers in every country on the African continent.
Participating countries have all committed to the registration of their citizens especially children. Similarly more attention is required to be given to the issue of the registration of refugees and children born of refugees.
We wish to work closely with the UNHCR and countries in the region to develop regional strategies to manage mixed migration and to initiate bilateral agreements on managing asylum seekers who transit through numerous safe countries in search of protection. Further, we will be approaching various stakeholders including the UNHCR to assist with the development of standardized biometric based registration systems to enable data sharing across countries in our region and continent. This will amongst others, enable young people born into refugee situations to more easily reacquire their citizenship during cessation periods.
We believe that this will contribute to enhancing the security situation of refugee communities on the continent, many of whom also fall victim to trafficking and other heinous practices.
Chairperson, the Government of South Africa has recently implemented the recommendation by the UNHCR on the Angolan cessation. We thank the UNHCR and Angolan government for their support and co-operation in this regard. We note that there remain many challenges that hosting states are faced with in their attempt to return refugees whose status have ceased, to their countries of origin. It is imperative that the UNHCR finds an acceptable mechanism to assist countries to overcome various challenges faced in this regard, failing which the burden imposed on host countries is inevitably increased, which in turn may result in reduced scope for receiving and hosting refugees into the future.
In our desire to achieve peace and stability on the African continent we should remain focused on protracted refugee situations. Africa has over 6.4 million refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan, Somalia and Mali.
In conclusion, may I take this opportunity to thank the High Commissioner for the excellent working relationship we have with his team led by the new Regional Representative, Ms Clementine Nkweta-Salami. I would like to reiterate that we stand alongside you in our mutual effort to construct a caring world at peace with itself.
I thank you.