Statement by the Minister of Home Affairs of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Malusi Gigaba MP, during the occasion of the General Debate at the 67th Session of the Executive Committee of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, Switzerland, on 03 October 2016
At the outset, please allow me both to congratulate Mr. Fillipo Grandi on his elevation to the important office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees as well as to express South Africa’s support for the statement delivered on behalf of the African Group by Sudan.
Africa is faced with complex challenges but we continue to rise and seek concrete and sustainable solutions for our people and humankind as a whole.
South Africa welcomes the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and applauds the fundamental commitment by states to protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants, regardless of status.
We are convinced that this Declaration marks a turning point in our history as nations in dealing with persons on the move.
We must heed the call to maintain our high level of ambition to ensure that we direct our collective efforts to save lives, protect rights and share responsibility on a global scale.
We wish to reiterate the appeal to all nations to ensure that we spare no effort to reduce and ultimately eliminate the forcible movement of people both within and between nation-states.
We must make every effort to ensure that we treat all peoples equally and regard every forcible movement of people as equally urgent.
Whilst poverty and underdevelopment are widely regarded as key drivers of the displacement of people and in turn can lead to armed conflict and instability, cross border destabilisation of countries must not be neglected as people tend thereafter to follow the development and stability stolen from their countries by migrating to the countries or regions they view as culprits.
In this regard, we concur with the High Commissioner’s concern that countries should, in the spirit of solidarity, open their doors to those seeking humanitarian assistance and that we must, in moments of crisis, adopt a solutions-oriented approach.
Accordingly, a concerted global effort to address the questions of underdevelopment and armed conflict should be a central focus of all Member States.
We must always strive to resolve conflicts between nation-states peacefully, through negotiations and resist the temptation to embark on cross-border, trans-national activities that would plunge nation-states into destabilisation.
We must heed the call of the Agenda for Humanity and leave no one behind.
Africa continues to bear the brunt of hosting vast numbers of forcibly-displaced persons, with South Africa being one of the largest single recipients of asylum seekers over time.
Every effort should be made to comprehensively address the root causes as they also tend generally to lead to armed conflict and instability due to competition for scarce resources.
In line with the New York Declaration, South Africa commits herself meaningfully to contribute to the development of the framework and other commitments related to safe, orderly and regular migration.
In line with the New York Declaration, South Africa has the greatest pleasure to announce that as early as 2005 we met the call to “support early childhood education for refugee children…promote tertiary education, skills training and vocational education.”
We do this knowing very well that young people have the capacity to make considerable contributions to their communities and as future leaders, they must be empowered with skills and knowledge, as well as all-round competencies, to prepare them for their future role as the leadership of our societies and future.
In South Africa, asylum seekers and refugees are accorded these rights immediately on applying for asylum.
This in turn has changed many lives of persons of concern in South Africa through acquiring formal education, employment and conducting business.
In turn, this serves as a contribution to the development of their countries of origin so that when they return home, or in any other way they pursue their future, they can contribute in the reconstruction of their countries.
South Africa supports all efforts, in particularly regional and continental programmes that address developmental challenges.
Among these are African integration, industrialisation, infrastructure rollout programmes, as well as Agenda 2063, including the aspiration to silence all guns by 2020.
The South African Government wishes to advise this august house that we are reviewing our immigration policies to align them with our Constitutional values, international standards as well as the principle of human solidarity.
The envisioned approach seeks to involve the whole of society in managing international migration, and is informed by recognition of the positive contribution made by migrants.
When the policy development process is concluded, it is expected to provide us with completely new perspectives and tools the better to manage migration in South Africa.
Above all else, in seeking new ways to manage the situation of economic migrants in the country, the new policy will enable us the better to manage our asylum system and provide protection to refugees.
In conclusion, South Africa encourages all parties gathered at this ExCom meeting proactively to engage each other so that we may find concrete solutions to the challenges faced by forcibly displaced persons and states that host them.
Equitable burden-sharing amongst all states is crucial.
The UN Secretary General has sharply reminded in words that must resonate throughout this EXCOM that we are faced, not with a crisis of numbers, but a crisis of solidarity!
I hope we do not disappoint in that regard.
I thank you.