South Africa sees influx of asylum-seekers

Tue, 2012-05-08 10:42 AM
The South African government has announced that they are working to deal with the high number of asylum-seeker claims they continue to receive. Currently, South Africa receives more individual asylum claims than any other country.

South Africa's immigration department said that it faces an "immense challenge" and was extending hours at government offices across the country that accept asylum applications. Immigration Director General Mkuseli Apleni also said that police will be stepping in to help manage the long queues forming at the immigration offices, where fights and stampedes have broken out.

Apleni also said that the department is trying to deal with a backlog of more than 150,000 applications that had been refused but are awaiting appeals reviews.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) welcomed the progress South Africa was making to deal with the influx of asylum-seekers. The agency's spokeswoman for southern Africa, Tina Ghelli explained that UNHCR is concerned that people fleeing violence in other countries are finding it difficult to get help because economic immigrants are abusing and overwhelming the system in South Africa.

Economic migrants are people who move to a new country because living conditions or job opportunities are not good in their own country. This means they are not normally considered to be genuine asylum seeker since they did not leave their country due to violence or oppression. Therefore, they are considered to be abusing the system if they are applying as an asylum-seeker.

According to UNHCR, last year more than 100,000 people sought asylum in South Africa. The next highest number of applications received was 74,000 in the US.

UNHCR said that most asylum applications are from Zimbabweans, Congolese, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis.

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