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Permanent residency

The Refugees Amendment Act would lengthen the amount of time a refugee has resided in the country before being allowed to apply for certification to apply for permanent residence from the current five years to ten years. The UNHCR recommends that the period of time before recognizing a permanent status should be five years. In our comments, […]

Changes to the Refugee Appeal Board

The fact that the Refugee Appeal Board is severely over-stretched and under-resourced is well documented, and has resulted in asylum seekers waiting for several years for hearings and outcomes. The Refugees Amendment Act would create the Refugee Appeals Authority, which would allow for one member to take a decision (rather than the current quorum) and for […]

Cessation of refugee status

The Refugees Amendment Act would, if implemented, expand the reasons under which a refugee status could be withdrawn. The Act, read with the Draft Regulations, propose a list of actions that would result in the withdrawal of refugee status – including ‘seeking consular services [and] assistance with documentation.’ In Scalabrini’s submissions and comments, concern is […]

Exclusion from refugee status

If implemented, the Refugees Amendment Act would expand the reasons for which an asylum seeker could be excluded from refugee status. This would include the committing of a Schedule 2 crime, entering illegally into South Africa, or an offence related to fraudulent documentation. It would also include those who are fugitives from justice in countries […]

Abandoning asylum claims

Under the Refugees Amendment Act, an asylum claim will be considered ‘abandoned’ if an asylum seeker does not attend a Refugee Reception Office in the month after the expiry of their asylum permit (unless they have a ‘compelling reason’). In our experience, the expired permit process has been fraught with difficulty for asylum seekers for […]

Applying for asylum

The Refugees Amendment Act requires an asylum seeker to report to a Refugee Reception Office no later than five days after arriving in South Africa – or they can be excluded from refugee status. Furthermore, those who do not have an ‘asylum transit visa’ will be interviewed by an immigration officer to determine whether they […]

Opening and closing Refugee Reception Offices

Under the Refugees Amendment Act, the Director-General of Home Affairs would be able to establish, and disestablish, as many Refugee Reception Offices as he or she regards as necessary – ‘notwithstanding the provisions of any other law’. He or she would also be able to direct any category of asylum seekers to report to any […]

Removal of the automatic right to work and study for asylum seekers

Under the Refugees Amendment Act, asylum seekers would no longer have the automatic right to work and study. This right would only be ‘endorsed’ on an asylum visa following an assessment process to determine whether the applicant could support themselves in any way (including with UNHCR’s support). If not, they would have the right to […]


You will find this at Section 27 of the Constitution. This right is ‘subject to any condition prescribed by the Minister’ of Health. Also, there are two categories that are excluded from this right: people who have medical aid, or those who are receiving compensation for compensable occupational diseases. You will find this at Section […]

I have more questions. Who can I ask?

You can contact one of the following organizations for further questions and advice. Sonke Gender Justice SECTION27 Lawyers for Human Rights Legal Resources Centre Office of Health Ombud The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town The Johannesburg Migrant Health Forum brings together different organisations working in migration and health in Gauteng. Their website provides several resources […]

What is needed to improve the situation?

As mentioned, the South African public healthcare system is struggling to address the nation’s needs. Many people struggle with access, South African and non-South African alike. Groups of the population, such as people living in rural areas, will face specific challenges. Similarly, there are unique and specific challenges that are faced by non-nationals, which are […]

The reality of accessing healthcare in South Africa

It is clear that non-South Africans have several rights to access healthcare in South Africa. But in reality, things are different. There are several angles to think about. Some migrants and refugees are denied access to healthcare simply because they are foreign. There have been several instances of migrants and refugees being denied treatment solely […]

What about accessing treatment for HIV or TB?

Everyone in South Africa, regardless of their nationality or documentation status, has the right to access treatment for HIV (Anti-Retroviral Treatment) and TB. The Department of Health 2007 Circular confirms this.

What about organ transplants?

As we have seen, specialist treatment must be provided according to the resources of the hospital. Refugees and asylum-seekers will be assessed in the same way as South African citizens – depending on their medical need and the resources available. However, for organ transplants, the National Health Act states that ‘an organ may not be […]

What about accessing specialist treatment, such as kidney dialysis?

In short, this depends on the resources of the South African healthcare system. For specialized care, patients must be placed in a system that ‘queues’ them depending on their medical needs. In this system, refugees, asylum seekers and permanent residents must be treated the same as South African citizens. The South African healthcare system struggles […]

Who pays what at clinics and hospitals?

The Uniform Patient Fee Schedule sets out who must pay for certain services at a South African health facility, which is explained in the Classification of Patients for the Determination of Fees. Note that fees are not payable for “free services”.6 In short, the following non-nationals should be means-tested (in the same way as South […]

How is the South African healthcare system structured?

In South Africa, the public healthcare system is structured in different levels: Clinics treat common health needs, known as ‘primary health care’. Clinics refer patients to hospitals when a patient needs further treatment. Clinics are run by specially trained primary health care nurses. There are different types of clinics such as mobile and satellite clinics. […]

I have more questions. Who can I ask?

There are several organizations working on this issue. Here are the contact details of three organisations: The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town,, tel: 021 465 6433 Lawyers for Human Rights, Musina: 015 534 2203, Durban: 031 301 0531, Pretoria: 012 3202943, Johannesburg: 011 339 1960. Legal Resources Centre,, Johannesburg: 011 836 9831, Cape […]

What is late registration of birth?

In South Africa, any birth that is not registered after thirty days is considered a Late Registration of Birth. As stated in section 2 of this article, the Department of Home Affairs has set up ‘offices’ at major hospitals and clinics where birth certificates can be issued directly. However, this is not always accessible to […]