PRETORIA – The South African government in Pretoria has received strong backlash from human rights organisations after confirming that the country will not accept Afghan refugees who have fled their country in the wake of the Taliban takeover.
In a statement, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) stated that South Africa cannot accede to NGO Exitus’s request to allow refuge in the country for 126 Afghans. According to the government, the refusal was made on the basis that SA’s welfare system is already under strain.
South Africa is unable to receive Afghan refugees. https://t.co/kPo2eYYheJ— DIRCO South Africa (@DIRCO_ZA) September 1, 2021
Refugees in danger
Schuler Heerschop Pienaar Attorneys, Lara Mullins and Mark Pienaar, representing the US-based NGO Exitus, who are assisting refugees that are trying to flee Afghanistan due to the Taliban takeover, said that South Africa is putting the Afghan refugees in danger by declining the request.
According to a report by Daily Maverick, Exitus CEO Candace Rivera claimed many in this group of 126 refugees fleeing Afghanistan were “high-value individuals” on the Taliban’s kill list. “They’re American allies, they did something for the Afghan government, maybe they were chief of police… a ton of female activists, female physicians, female attorneys, females who have been survivors of trauma that speak out, females who are humanitarian NGOs.”
“We feel that the South African government is not living up to their international responsibility and one of those is to provide protection to those who need it,” said Shennila Mohamed from Amnesty International in South Africa.
In response to DIRCO’s statement on SA’s lack of welfare, Mohamed said: “We can’t deny that South Africa is having challenges but I also think there comes a time when we have to respond to what is happening in the global world.”
She added that SA needs to fix its asylum system and differentiate between “economic migrants and refugees in need” because that is how SA has become burdened.
“We are not saying keep them [Afghan refugees] here forever, we are saying help them transit out of danger and then negotiate and find another place for them,” she said.
Amnesty SA is reaching out to the South African government to reconsider allowing refugees to seek asylum in the country to help them escape from danger.
Mohamed argues that there are countries out there which, despite their internal challenges, are stepping up towards their moral obligation to the international legal framework, but South Africa has failed to do so.
Amnesty SA’s Shennila Mohamed explains why South Africa must do everything it can to assist Afghans who risk being targeted after the Taliban takeover. Watch the full discussion here: