What are the solutions to the challenges in the asylum and immigration regime?

The challenges facing asylum seekers and refugees are significant but there are solutions:

  1. Implement the Refugees Act

The Refugees Act has been labeled ‘one of the most progressive in the world’ and provides a strong urban refugee protection system. If implemented properly, it can set an example for refugee protection around the world. Proper implementation means addressing the major challenges in the system and rooting out corruption and mismanagement. The Department needs to demonstrate it will implement the asylum regime in a lawful manner according to the Constitution and Refugees Act.¬†Having a fair and efficient asylum system ensures that genuine refugees receive protection, and that those without asylum claims are processed appropriately and quickly. Having a functioning asylum system is in the interests of both the South African state and applicants themselves.

  1. Implement an immigration regime that promotes development

The Immigration Act, the legislation regulating regular immigration matters, does not allow for the legal migration of low to medium skilled migrants. This does not match the reality of migration in southern Africa, and many individuals who migrate for non-refugee reasons apply for asylum due to a lack of knowledge on the asylum system and a lack of other viable options. As the National Development Plan has recognised, migration is likely to increase in South Africa and it should be harnessed to promote development rather. The Department’s 2017 White Paper on International Migration also recognizes this imbalance, and calls for policy interventions to allow for carefully managed economic migration from neighbouring countries, including regularization programme to provide permit options for undocumented migrants already in South Africa; the introduction of new visa options to cater to economic migrants in the region; and a stronger focus on employers who exploit undocumented migrants.

The introduction of these policies would lessen the burden on the asylum system and provide for a more effective asylum process focused on providing the international protection so many refugees require.