South Africa has offered hope for refugees and asylum seekers‚ promising to digitise its systems to make their lives easier.
Home affairs deputy minister Fatima Chohan said the department would soon be introducing biometric smart cards for refugees‚ similar to the new identity cards for South African citizens.
At an event hosted by the department at Durban’s Playhouse Theatre‚ Chohan said that South Africa had processed two million asylum seekers since 1998.
“If you compare that the fact that the whole of Europe‚ 27 countries‚ have processed four million people during this latest crisis‚ you can see what a challenge this has been for us‚” she said.
She added that not only did South Africa have a record low number of asylum seekers last year but a record number of 35‚000 were processed.
“We have changed the way we process asylum seekers. We have gone digital and it has improved our efficiency. This means that more refugees are able to access assistance and services‚” she said.
She said the hope is that the biometric card for refugees will start being issued from Thursday this week.
“It ends potential for fraud as every aspect is processed electronically‚” she said.
This comes as the United Nations Refugee Agency on June 19 — the day before World Refugee Day on Wednesday — released its annual Global Trends study. The report found that 65.5-million people were “forcibly replaced” worldwide by the end of last year.
“On average‚ 20 people were driven from their homes every minute last year‚ or one every three seconds‚” the agency said.
Syria was the largest producer of refugees for the seventh straight year — but it was the 737‚404 people displaced in South Sudan that pushed the numbers up even more severely last year. Children make up half the world’s refugees.