Our last chance to send Home Affairs a message


We only have less than 24 hours left to tell the Department of Home Affairs to scrap anti-African proposals that will violate the dignity of our sisters and brothers from across the continent and beyond. War, political violence and persecution are driving many to seek refuge in Mzansi, just like many fled South Africa during apartheid.

Home Affairs has released their Green Paper on International Migration and wants to hear from everyday people like you and me [1]. We have an opportunity to ensure our migration policies for the next 15 years protect the vulnerable, drive development and cooperation within SADC (Southern African Development Community) and ensure human dignity for all.

There are some great proposals in the Green Paper [2], but experts from Lawyers for Human Rights, the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants South Africa (CoRMSA), the Scalabrini Centre and the Legal Resources Centre, have raised concerns about some of the Green Paper’s proposals, many of which aren’t based on evidence, won’t ensure human dignity, and will be very costly.

The Green Paper repeats the claim that many people abuse the asylum system (p. 40), which is why 90% of asylum seeker applications are rejected (p. 29). However, the current asylum system is plagued by systemic corruption [3], discrimination [4] and lacks the capacity to ensure decisions [5], many of which are often matters of life and death, are reached fairly and impartially on a case by case basis. This is backed by mountains of evidence. We need only look at the Musina Refugee Reception Office, which has a 0% grant rate for asylum seeker applications, to know something is very wrong with the system [6].

But rather than outline how to fix systemic problems in the processing of asylum seekers, the Green Paper proposes grand infrastructure projects such as building Asylum Seeker Processing Centres on our borders (p. 65). The Green Paper fails to clarify whether such centres will in fact be detention centres like Lindela, which has a well-documented history of human rights violations [7] [8]. To make matters worse, Home Affairs mentions that these processing centres are “common international practice in countries such as Canada, Australia…” (p. 66). This is alarming because Australia's asylum seeker ‘processing centres’ are in fact detention centres that have been globally condemned for their violation of human rights [9]. Asylum seekers in Australian centres have even sewn their mouths shut as part of a hunger strike to protest of their treatment in these centres [10].

While the Green Paper fails to provide detail on these proposed Asylum Seeker Processing Centres, such centres would move processing to behind closed doors, into virtual detention, which would likely lead to gross human rights violations. These centres would also have to provide housing, food, health and education to asylum seekers at huge cost to the state, which means less money for service delivery for all. It’s critical we give Home Affairs a clear public mandate to scrap proposed processing centres, and instead confront the crises in our Refugee Reception Offices and other areas of the system. 

The Green Paper rightly notes that our migration is based on a colonial and apartheid systems, the Aliens Control Act was about the exploitation of Black people to work in mines. But the Green Paper contradicts itself, it talks about undoing the bias in migration that favour migrants from Europe over African countries, but it then outlines proposals that are anti-African. 

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[1] Department of Home Affairs (DHA). 2016. Green Paper on International Migration in South Africa. [O]. Available at:

[2] The Green Paper essentially calls for the decolonisation of our migration policy, to address the bias that favours immigrants from Europe over African countries (p. 22). The paper calls for SADC integration (p. 53) and skills development (p. 44), as well as the low-skilled regional work visa. The paper also challenges the ‘foreigners are stealing our jobs’ narrative by showing that “South Africans make up over 90% of those employed in every sector” (p. 27) and noting that South African employers must be held to account for breaking labour legislation and paying migrants the cheapest wages (p. 61).

[3] Amit, R. 2015. Queue Here for Corruption –Measuring Irregularities in South Africa’s Asylum System. Pretoria & Johannesburg: Lawyers for Human Rights & The African Centre for Migration and Society. [O]. Available:

[4] Amit, R. 2012. All Roads Lead to Rejection: Persistent Bias and Incapacity in South African Refugee Status Determination. Johannesburg: African Centre for Migration and Society. [O]. Available at:

[5] Mubayiwa, A. 2011. ‘Refugees in SA fight for better conditions’, Times Live, 21 August. [O]. Available at:

[6] Department of Home Affairs. [undated]. ‘Asylum statistics: analysis and trends for the period January to December’. Presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs. [O]. Available at:, p. 20.

[7] South African Human Rights Commission. 2000. Lindela at the crossroads for detention and repatriation. [O]. Available at:

[8] Lawyers for Human Rights. 2008. Monitoring Immigration Detention in South Africa. [O]. Available at:

[9] Doherty, B & Kingsley, P. 2016. ‘Refugee camp company in Australia 'liable for crimes against humanity', Guardian, 25 July. [O]. Available at:

[10] Saul, H. 2015. ‘Australian asylum seekers sew their mouths shut in hunger strike protest at being moved to 'unsafe' accommodation’, Independent,14 January. [O]. Available at: