Enhanced travel documents to improve refugee management

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Home Affairs has introduced a hugely improved refugee travel document to improve asylum-seeking management. 

The department on Wednesday said the new version Machine Readable Travel Document for Refugees has been designed and developed using the latest passport production technology and security standards to include a pure polycarbonate data-page for personalisation by laser engraving. It is fully compliant with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) and ICAO (International Civil Aviation Authority) guidelines. 

“Machine readable travel documents are more secure. Because security considerations play an ever-increasing role due to the risks of document and identity fraud, they not only increase security and trust among States but also enhance the level of confidence in the users, in this case, refugees, who will travel with them.

“They facilitate the safe and regular movement of refugees and thereby reduce the risk of exploitation, abuse, violence and human trafficking,” said Home Affairs in a statement. 

The improved refugee travel document has the following new features:

  • Enhanced security features enabled by more advanced production technology.
  • The name of the document has been changed from passport to travel document.
  • The following return class has been inserted: “the holder is authorised to return to the Republic of South Africa within the period of validity specified in this document”.
  • A page (30) has been included to add the names of parents of a refugee child to minimise risks such as abduction and child trafficking. It will be left blank for now until the finalisation of the enhancements of the Department’s National Immigration Information System.
  • The amendment of the endorsement to specify the applicant’s country of origin in the travel document to which he/ she is not allowed to travel to.

As with the previous documents, applications for the refugee travel document must still be lodged at Refugee Reception Offices. After this, an interview will be conducted with the refugee to establish the purpose of travel and the destination, as well as to inform them of the consequences should they travel to their country of origin from which they fled due to persecution. The latter could lead to withdrawal of refugee status should they travel to the country of nationality.

Holders of valid refugee travel documents will still be allowed to use the existing travel documents until the date of expiry. The document will be valid for the same period of the validity of the Section 24 refugee permit.

Improving refugee management

The introduction of the new document is part of a process that seeks to markedly improve the management of refugees coming into and leaving South Africa.

From a peak of over 200 000 refugees and asylum seekers coming into the country in 2008 and 2009, the numbers have decreased drastically to 71 914 in 2014, 62 159 in 2015 and 35 377 last year.

In addition, an improved Border Management Bill is making its way through the parliamentary processes.

“We are giving further effect to our strong human rights culture that was introduced from 1994 to replace the crime of apartheid while ensuring that the right to security for citizens as well as migrants are upheld,” said the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Fatima Chohan. – SAnews.gov.za

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