A recent report published by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees claims that there are more than a million asylum seekers in South Africa, and that the country is home to one the highest number of unresolved asylum cases in the world.

SA hard more than 3.2 million refugees and asylum seekers displaced in 2015 alone.

In June 2016 the UNHCR published a new report on global trends in forced displacement. According to the report,  the number of asylum claims in South Africa had risen to 1,096,063 .


Asylum process.

Legally speaking, a refugee in South Africa is defined as a person who has fled their “place of habitual residence” owing to a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, tribe, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

This includes people who are forced to flee their country of origin as a result of “external aggression, occupation, foreign domination” or events that “seriously” disrupt public order. An asylum seeker is a person who is seeking recognition as a refugee and whose status has yet to be determined.

In order to become a refugee and avail oneself of particular protections – including the right to stay – a person must lodge a claim for asylum with the South African government.

This initiates a process by which the asylum seeker can motivate to the government that he/she fulfils the legal criteria and should be granted refugee status. This application is then adjudicated and, depending on the outcome, can be appealed or later reviewed if unsatisfactory.

Ramjathan-Keogh of SALC explains that South Africa’s high number is the result of “slow and ineffective asylum processing which keeps people in asylum limbo for many years; instead of processing them so that applicants are either granted or refused asylum”, rather than because the country is receiving more asylum seekers than anywhere else in the world.