Country: South Africa
Delegate Name: Hannah Weber
South Africa for the HRC
Repatriation of Refugees
Mattawan High School
South Africa’s Position on the Repatriation of Refugees
The current issues refugees are facing include increasing conflict, mass displacement, fresh challenges to asylum, the funding gap between humanitarian needs and resources, and growing xenophobia. The largest issue is mass displacement as it continues to increase at a rapid rate, which is why the HRC needs to aid in the ongoing repatriation efforts. Repatriation is considered voluntary, safe, and dignified. Some other issues at stake are the countries housing these refugees because more often than not, they have restrictive asylum regulations.
The United Nations has been involved in refugee repatriation since 1950 and originally was used to help Europeans who lost their homes during WWII. UNHCR realized the right of return (a refugee’s right to return to their home country) and started acting on their repatriation promises in the 1980s; the first major repatriation movement was in Honduras and El Salvador (trying to help refugees return to El Salvador from Honduras, the first time the right of return was recognized by governments). When trying to repatriate refugees, UNHCR educates refugees about their rights and informs states to respect the rules of the refugee regime. A recent solution to the repatriation of refugees was DAR (Development Assistance for Refugees) in 2002.
Refugees in South Africa currently have more rights than most. Refugees are entitled to the same rights, primary education, and full legal protection outlined by the constitution. Refugees are also allowed to apply for permanent residence after 5 years of continuous residence, and seeking employment is also an option. South Africa is currently attempting to toughen asylum for foreign people seeking refuge through a proposal called the “White Papers” because, in 1996, South Africa signed up to international agreements – such as the UN’s refugee convention without seeking exemptions from certain clauses. Meanwhile, many other countries opted out of clauses giving asylum-seekers and refugees the same rights as their citizens, including the right to employment and education for their children. The new White Papers proposal could deny refugees coming from another country that is deemed “safe” to prevent too many refugees from entering the country.
South Africa supports the repatriation of refugees because it would help lower the unemployment rate issues. After all, refugees put a heavy strain on the already overstretched health sector, high unemployment, and poverty. Returning refugees to their home countries would help relieve some of this strain because it would allow South Africa to reallocate these resources to their citizens instead of refugees. Though it may not be safe, the HCR cannot force refugees to go back to their home countries; however, those who want to go back should be allowed to go back to their home countries as long as it’s safe and they understand the risks and possible consequences.