In 2003, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) commissioned the Community Agency for Social Enquiry (CASE) to undertake a baseline study of asylum seekers and refugees living in South Africa. In 2019 the FHR was commissioned by the UNHCR to conduct the second iteration of the study. The focus of the 2019 study was on Rwandan refugees and asylum seekers in Gauteng and the Western Cape. This study consisted of a survey in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town as well as focus group discussions with members of the Rwandan community in the above-mentioned cities.
The 2003 study focused on gathering empirical data from refugees and asylum seekers of 12 nationalities. The data collection was meant to determine their experiences with the asylum/refugee status assessment process and with the enforcement of Home Affairs regulations, and to establish their priority concerns, particularly with regard to specific socio-economic and legal issues. By contrast, the 2019 study had a narrow focus on Rwandan refugee and asylum seekers’ and their children’s access to services including documentation, education, and healthcare. This study was meant to illustrate the inefficiency and lack of political will which have contributed to this issue, and thereby hold Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to account.
Refugees and asylum-seekers in South Africa
Refugees and asylum-seekers, particularly from Rwanda, have found it increasingly difficult to obtain or renew their permits from the DHA and related institutions. The speculative causes of this are changes in South African legislation, institutionalized xenophobia, and the cessation clause (due to a change of circumstances in their home country, refugees no longer require international protection and cannot, therefore, refuse to avail themselves of the protection of their country),² which is signed by Rwandan government and UNHCR. Expired permits and short renewal periods lead to countless accessibility issues for this community, including access to basic human rights such as education and emergency healthcare, which everyone in South Africa is entitled to according to the Constitution.
The survey on Rwandan refugees and asylum seekers in Gauteng and the Western Cape 2019 -2020
The survey comprises four phases which were implemented between September 2019 and February 2020. Phases I and II of the study included: designing the survey instruments (questionnaire, focus group guidelines, and in-depth interview guidelines for government officials); identifying participants and fieldworkers in each province; and data collection. Phase III and IV involved data analysis, a written report and dissemination of findings to the general public.
"In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift - a more human face."