Roundup: South Africa marks World Refugee Day by assuring their rights

Roundup: South Africa marks World Refugee Day by assuring their rights

PRETORIA, June 20 (Xinhua) -- The South African government assured on Friday that basic security rights of refugees living in the country will not be violated.

Refugees shall not be expelled from South Africa except on grounds of national security or public order, Department of Home Affairs Director-General Mkuseli Apleni said at an event in Pretoria, marking the World Refugee Day.

He was speaking as thousands of Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa are waiting for a government decision on their status.

In 2009, South Africa granted a special dispensation to over 200, 000 Zimbabwean nationals who were in South Africa illegally given the political situation in their country at the time.

In March this year, the new South African cabinet decided on a process to review the dispensation when the permits expire towards the end of this year.

There have been jitters among many Zimbabwean nationals in South Africa that they would be expelled to their home country when their visas expire.

"It is in this context that again we advise Zimbabwean nationals who were given permits in 2009 in terms of the Dispensation for Zimbabweans to wait patiently and with no panic, for our Department to make an announcement on how this process will be handled," Apleni said.

Refugees shall be afforded basic security rights, basic human dignity, rights such as protection against discrimination, and the right to work and education, said Apleni.

"South Africa subscribes to the principle that refugees may not be returned, directly or indirectly, to countries where they risk persecution," he said.

Apleni also assured that refugees shall not be prosecuted on account of their illegal entry into or presence in South Africa provided that they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.

But he said a refugee status is not an end in itself, all nationals should be allowed an opportunity to return to their countries of origin when peace and stability are restored so that they can assist with the development of their nations or at least to resume their nationalities wherever they wish to remain.

Amongst the few positive examples, Angola has demonstrated sustained peace, stability, prosperity and adherence to democratic values and principle since the signing of the Luena Peace Accord in 2002.

This development led to the UNHCR recommending, in 2009, to member states hosting Angolan nationals as refugees, to consider cessation of the refugee status.

Apleni took the opportunity to congratulate the former Angolan refugees for resuming their nationality, and the Angolan government for supporting and ensuring that Angolan nationals resume their nationality.