On 31 January 2024, The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) made a written submission to the Department of Home Affairs on the White Paper on Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Protection: Towards a Complete Overhaul of the Migration System in South Africa (the White Paper). SERI frequently provides comments in response to government public calls concerning draft laws and policies.
SERI’s submission focuses largely on two issues. The first is the White Paper’s threat to remove the socio-economic rights of refugees and migrants which SERI argues would be unconstitutional and breach South Africa’s international law obligations under a wide range of treaties. These rights include rights to social assistance, education, health, and the right to work. SERI submits that taking away existing socio-economic rights currently enjoyed by refugees and
other migrants would also constitute retrogression and any attempt in new legislation to take away these rights would be inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid.
The second issue is that the White Paper ignores the Department of Home Affairs's duties to combat xenophobia, and that such a duty should find expression in any new policy or law on migration and refugee protection. In addition, SERI is of the view that the White Paper may "unwittingly fuel xenophobia".
SERI also notes that the period allowed for public consultation, which fell over the year-end break, was inadequate and prevented SERI from being able to conduct detailed engagements with all its clients communities and partners across South Africa.
Ultimately, SERI finds that the White Paper is so fundamentally flawed - in its methodology, evidential base, and legal positions - and recommends that the White Paper be withdrawn and the process commenced afresh, using a more appropriate methodology, consultation with affected groups (especially migrants and refugees) and proper legal advice.
- Download the full submission here.