Statement on the Angolan cessation clause: former refugees from Angola face deportation as temporary permits expire

Published: 17/Sep/2015
Source: Lawyers for Human Rights (South Africa)

The People’s Coalition Against Xenophobia calls for Angolans who have been legally living in South Africa with refugee status for many years to be allowed to regularise their stay in the country.

In April 2013 the South African government agreed to implement a cessation of refugee status for Angolans.  Following a recommendation from the UNHCR, the South African government agreed that the situation in Angola was now stable and that Angolans are therefore no longer in need of protection.  Whilst we should be applauding the fact Angola is at peace following the decades long civil war, we are deeply concerned by the manner in which the government approached this matter.

It is an international norm in such cases that the UNHCR and governments look at ways to find durable solutions for people who had been considered refugees.  This means working with the country of origin to enable them to help those who wish to return.  This also means looking at ways to enable former refugees to integrate into the countries in which they have been living.

In the case of the 2,000 Angolans in South Africa, few opted to move voluntarily as many have been here for twenty years or more, children have been born and grown up here and know no other country, language or culture.  Research undertaken in January 2015 by the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town (SCCT) found that the Angolan refugees surveyed were well integrated “socially, linguistically and in terms of education – within South African society. A large majority of respondents’ children were born in South Africa (73%) and 92% were enrolled in South African schools…  At 77%, a majority of respondents used a South African language at home with their family.”

Home Affairs issued two-year temporary residence permits, saying in a statement on 4 September 2015, that this was to assist “those affected to remain in the country as Angolan migrants and not as refugees.”  These permits are now expiring, leaving people at risk of deportation. The SCCT survey found that “of self-employed respondents, 69% indicated that they employ others in their businesses and 78% of these employed at least one South African citizen…  at 70%, the majority of respondents considered payment of taxes, operation of business, job creation or employable skills as their main contribution to South African society.“  However, there is no appropriate provision in the South African Immigration Act for most of these people, as regulations require specific high-level skills or large amounts of capital (currently over 5 million rand).

Those affected should not become undocumented over night because our flawed immigration legislation does not allow for a realistic way to obtain legal status.  The Minister of Home Affairs has himself said: “immigrants make a huge contribution to our society and development, and can contribute even more under an improved policy framework”.

By contrast, Zambia is offering 10,000 Angolan refugees an integration process, recognising that they have been living and contributing to the Zambian economy for many years.  It is inhumane for South Africa not to consider a similar route for a much smaller number of people. Furthermore, this would demonstrate in action the stated commitment of our government to regional integration and the SADC Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons, to which South Africa is a signatory.

We call on the South African government to urgently consider a process of integration, so that these former refugees can continue to contribute to the life and economy of South Africa, instead of spending time and government resources deporting people who only know South Africa as home.

Read on LHR website:

Themes: Nationality and Refugees
Regions: South Africa
Year: 2015