Majority endorsement for Refugee Amendment Bill

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pretoria - The Refugee Amendment Bill, which is expected to streamline the application process for those seeking asylum, has received a majority endorsement from Members of Parliament.

Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma introduced the Bill to the National Assembly on Tuesday, after which the Bill was voted on.

"It is pleasing that this Bill which seeks to streamline the application process for genuine asylum seekers has received the majority endorsement from Members of Parliament. It is expected that this Bill will now be further deliberated upon in the National Council of Provinces before being ascended into law," Dlamini Zuma said.

She explained that the current legislation was being amended to so that those who were genuinely seeking asylum were not subjected to long protracted processes.

At the same time, the department also wants to be firm with those who were not refugees but abused the asylum system.

"The amendments being proposed will therefore establish committees that adjudicate applications from asylum seekers. This is currently done by junior officials sometimes working alone. 

"In addition, applicants whose applications are found to be without merit although they conform to the internationally recognised reasons for the granting of asylum, will be able to appeal the decision of the committee," the Minister said.

Applications that did not fall within the parameters of internationally recognised reasons for asylum would be reviewed by the Director-General and if the Director-General agreed with the findings of the committee, the applicant would be deported.

The amendments will also allow for the child born to an asylum seeker to be registered in terms of the Births and Deaths Registration Act, provided the birth certificate is submitted at a Refugee Reception Office in order to have that child included as a dependent of the asylum seeker or refugee.

"It is the firm conviction of the department that this Bill, once ascended into law, will ensure South Africa upholds its commitment to human rights, as well as its international obligations, while protecting the dignity of all those who seek refugee and safety upon our shores," she added.