The Forge – Documentation Information Workshop

UNHCR, The Fruit Basket (TFB), Future Families, and Partners for Sustainable Development Solutions (PSDS) met with thirty-four members from the LGBTQI+ community for a documentation information workshop. This is an important workshop as it helps refugees and asylum seekers to understand their rights in South Africa.

According to the South African government, “The asylum seeker’s permit is a temporary permit which you are given pending a decision on your application for refugee status or for asylum. If your asylum application is approved, you will be given a Section 24 permit (also known as a “Refugee Permit”) which officially recognises you as a refugee and is valid for two years. The permit may be renewed. You can apply for a permanent residence permit if you have lived in South Africa for more than five years on a refugee status permit.”

Asylum-seekers vs Refugees in South Africa

African Center for Migration Studies (ACMS) and TFB board member John Marnel, shared information on the immigration system, highlighting procedures to follow when seeking asylum. John defined the differences between refugee and asylum permits and pointed out the liberties that were granted to holders of either permit. We are grateful he took the time to discuss the updates made in the immigration system in South Africa.
Contrary to popular assumption that identifying as LGBTQI+ does not automatically grant one an asylum permit. There is a need to prove a well-founded fear of persecution/discrimination in one’s home country. John informed members there had been changes to the South African law since January 2021 that resulted in more stringent clauses to the asylum-seeking process. All this was backed up with examples of different cases, with channels of appeal if and where necessary.

In cases of harassment, prejudice, and ignorance that members of the LGBTQI+ community face when accessing services such as the refugee/asylum process at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), members were advised to approach organizations like The Fruit Basket, Lawyers for Human Rights, etc. UNHCR representative, Fezeka, informed members of the mandates and objectives of her organization, as well as modes of operation.

Fezeka distributed UNHCR guidebook to members which will keep people well informed of the resources, where to seek professional assistance for refugees and asylum seekers. This enhances the effectiveness of the provision of services to refugees and asylum seekers as well as a referral pathway between organisations. UNHCR informed members that they have a toll-free line which people can use to inquire more information. In addition to that, UNHCR has a new website with information on where to get help, who to contact, etc. She also informed members that UNHCR services are available and open to everyone, however people whose details are already in the DHA database stand chances of faster help.

Fezeka informed members that focus group sessions for LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers are in the pipeline to gather more information on the challenges facing the community and how they can be addressed. PSDS, TFB, and Wits RHI are facilitating some of the group sessions.

Resources for refugees in South Africa

Future Families (Faith) informed members about her organisation where she is the program manager for the Refugee Assistance Project. She also informed members that FF primarily focuses on new arrivals in South Africa and they aim to enable integration of refugees within communities since South Africa does not have refugee camps. Future Families offers short-term cash-based assistance to PoCs, thus addressing the challenges of accommodation and food.

Participants were provided with information on how the immigration system in South Africa can be easily navigated. PSDS distributed Information Education Communication (IEC) material, in different languages as well as condoms. TFB also facilitated the distribution of the “Hopes and Dreams That Sound Like Yours” book.