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South Africa’s Refugee Reception Offices to reopen

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South Africa’s Refugee Reception Offices to reopen

South African Home Office - Refugee Reception Offices
The South African government’s Refugee Reception Offices will reopen today – Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

South Africa will reopen its Refugee Reception Offices today.

The offices, which allow refugees to apply for asylum or renew their status, were closed in March 2020 in response to the pandemic. Since then, asylum seekers could not apply for or update refugee status.

While the government granted unlimited extensions of all refugees with expired papers after March 2020, many were unable to access critical institutions and services due to poor communication of policy changes. Refugees instead faced harassment and discrimination because of their supposed illegal status on expired visas. The Department of Home Affairs attempted to fix the situation with an online portal to renew refugee paperwork, but it failed due to website crashes and poor communication.

Expect the Refugee Reception Offices to be flooded with both first-time refugee applicants and those wishing to renew their status. It will most likely take many months for the South African government to process such a rapid influx given its history of difficulties in processing refugees. Short- to medium-term, expect conditions for refugees to improve as they gain more stable access to government institutions and services. Still, backlash from anti-immigrant groups who feel threatened by the increased visibility of refugees in society remains a possibility.

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Photo: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

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