UN agency urges SA tolerance on refugees
Publish date: 12 February 2024
Issue Number: 1063
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
The UN Refugee Agency’s assistant high commissioner for protection, Ruven Menikdiwela, has appealed to SA to maintain its commitment to upholding fundamental human rights by remaining party to the 1951 Refugee Convention. Menikdiwela also called on the government to lead the promotion of tolerance and social cohesion towards refugees and migrants, as the country approaches the national elections. A TimesLIVE report says Menikdiwela concluded a five-day visit to the country on Friday after a visit to Beitbridge, one of SA's busiest ports of entry on the border with Zimbabwe, on Wednesday and Thursday.
Earlier, Menikdiwela met Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in Pretoria. Discussions focused on reviewing the various migration routes to SA and how best to strengthen the protection space for asylum seekers and refugees. Menikdiwela referred to the government's White Paper on Citizenship, Immigration & Refugee Protection. TimesLIVE notes The White Paper was made public last November with an invitation for comments by 31 January on, notably, the proposal by SA to withdraw from the 1951 Refugee Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol, and to later re-enter with reservations on some critical articles on the convention, including possible employment and access to education. Menikdiwela said this was of great concern. ‘SA has attempted to respond to the arrivals of foreign nationals on its territory through the White Paper, but withdrawing from the Refugee Convention and re-acceding with reservations will not provide the immediate, practical solutions that the government is seeking. We suggest concrete solutions, such as the route-based approach, where we are not looking at countries of destination in isolation but at the entire migratory route – from the countries of origin to the countries of transit and to the countries of destination,’ Menikdiwela said. She said the agency was ready to work with the government and other humanitarian agencies to look at how to provide effective responses to migratory and refugee movements along these routes.