As the world marks World Refugee Day on Monday, the Southern African Institute for Responsive and Accountable Governance (SAIRAG) says all nations are obligated to receive and host refugees as members of the United Nations (UN) family.
According to the UNHCR, the number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution has now surpassed 100 million for the first time on record.
A recent Ipsos report, the Ukraine crisis has increased public openness to refugees and reversed some of the concerns raised by the coronavirus pandemic.
Institute Chairperson Tseliso Thipanyane says South Africa is, however, experiencing Afro-phobia due to corruption.
Thipanyane says, “In terms of the constitution there should be no difference really between asylum seekers, and refugees, and nationals either than voting rights. Unfortunately in our country, due to the problems of the non-nationals and corruption.”
“There’s an also increasing afro-phobia against African migrants, then we are clouding the distinction between foreigners, asylum seekers, and people who are undocumented in our country, and I think it’s important for us to appreciate that difference.”
World Refugee Day is an occasion to raise awareness of the unique needs of refugees and people on the move, as well as the challenges they may face during their journeys. The theme of this year’s event is – The right to seek safety.
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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has urged states to lift any remaining pandemic-related asylum restrictions.
At least 20 countries still deny access to asylum for people fleeing conflict, violence and persecution based on public health measures. Some of these countries apply exceptions for the entry of asylum seekers in an inconsistent or arbitrary manner.
According to the UNHCR, at the height of the emergency, 100 countries initially restricted access to Asylum seekers.
“Women, men and children continue to be turned away at land borders and sea,” says UN refugee agency UNHCR’s Filippo Grandi.
“I appeal to the states that continue to maintain these restrictions to lift them urgently, in order to enable people to seek safety and protection.
“With wars and violence raging across the world, and people fleeing from persecution, these measures deny the fundamental human right of people to seek asylum. Women, men and children continue to be turned away at land borders and sea; or are returned or transferred to countries where they may face threats to their life or freedom,” adds Grandi.
UNHCR denounces that measures that deny asylum seekers entry at borders are not only contrary to international law but are also not necessary to address public health risks.