Angolans in race to stay in SA after end of war robs them of refugee status

Published: 24/Jan/2017
Source: The Times (South Africa)

By Farren Collins

Four years after Angolans in South Africa were told they were no longer regarded as refugees‚ hundreds of them are still trying to find ways to stay in the country.

Their hopes were boosted when the High Court in Cape Town ordered the minister of home affairs to consider exemptions for permanent residence for former Angolan refugees.

In 2013‚ when the UN declared their country safe after years of civil war‚ Angolan refugees in South Africa were given permits allowing them to stay for two years.

Many had created new lives and were reluctant to leave but did not meet the requirements for visas or permanent residence‚ and faced deportation when the permits expired.

“These Angolans have been in South Africa a long time and are contributing to the economy‚” said Miranda Madikane‚ director of the Cape Town NGO Scalabrini Centre‚ which assists migrants. “But they are generally not skilled enough to obtain work or business permits‚ which require high levels of skills and/or large amounts of capital.”

Angolan ex-refugees given chance to apply for residency in South Africa

In November‚ Judge Patrick Gamble ordered home affairs to consider exemption applications from former Angolan refugees‚ and more than 1‚000 have applied.

Home affairs spokesman Mayhlome Tshwete said applicants who claimed to be working had to submit payslips and proof that taxes were being paid‚ “and if you’re doing business it’s exactly the same. We also want a police clearance so that we know you haven’t committed crimes in the country.”

Tshwete said the same arrangements would not necessarily be considered for refugees from other countries.

“You can’t say because of this precedent that every time there is a cessation (of war) there is going to be this consideration. There [are] a number of dynamics we look at. We have to look our different relationships with different countries‚” he said.

Madikane said the court order offering legal protection from arrest‚ detention and deportation would not help if applications were rejected.

“We emphasise this aspect of the process as it will have serious consequences and we urge everyone to make their applications as strong as possible‚” she said.

Decisions on applications are expected by May‚ and Tshwete said rejected applicants were expected to leave willingly. “We hope it doesn’t get to [deportation]‚” he said.

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Themes: Nationality and Refugees
Regions: South Africa
Year: 2017