South Africa Regional Office


Operation: Opération: South Africa Regional Office



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Key Figures

2019 planning figures
40,000 people of concern will receive legal support 
20,000 people of concern will be assessed for vulnerabilities 
5,000 people of concern will receive psychosocial support
5,000 people of concern will receive targeted assistance in the form of vouchers or subsidy for food and accommodation
2017 year-end results
17,930 people of concern received legal advice and support.
>10,000 people of concern were reached through community outreach activities.
13,781 people of concern with specific needs received cash and housing assistance.
1,855 people of concern were assisted through self-reliance and livelihood projects.
2,604  people with specific needs received psycho-social counselling.
110 refugee students assisted with DAFI scholarships.

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Decrease in
2017 281,574
2016 310,575
2015 1,218,739


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South Africa Regional Office

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  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019

Operational Environment

South Africa has progressive refugee legislation and both refugees and asylum-seekers enjoy freedom of movement, the right to work and access to social services provided by the Government. However, legislative restrictions, prompted by the scale of mixed movements into the country, are underway. South Africa continues to receive the highest number of asylum applications in the sub-region, combined with a large backlog and complex protection challenges faced by people of concern already in the country.
UNHCR provides technical support to the government on the international protection of refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless persons and works within national political, economic and social structures to bring policies, practices and laws into compliance with international standards.
UNHCR cooperates closely with Departments of Home Affairs, International Development and Cooperation, Social Development and Justice and Constitutional Development. In addition, civil society as well as national and international NGOs continue to play an important role in assisting refugees and asylum-seekers. UNHCR also engages actively with individuals and companies through the continent-wide LuQuLuQu fundraising and advocacy campaign. UNHCR coordinates closely with the UN Country Team and chairs the UN Protection Working Group, cooperating with the Government and civil society to prevent and respond to violence towards foreigners.
UNHCR engages with communities and community-based organisations across the country through the facilitation of information sessions, thematic workshops, advocacy meetings, dialogues between people of concern and the host community as well as through the provision of support to specific community projects. UNHCR-supported legal aid clinics operate in five different provinces. UNHCR’s livelihood programme includes the provision of micro-grants for businesses, improving and building up work-related skills for women, local language training, and vocational skills training. Enhanced access to livelihoods will assist refugees in local integration and allow them to contribute to local communities, resulting in improved relations between the refugee and host communities. Refugees and asylum-seekers with specific needs benefit also from multipurpose cash assistance or cash-for-rent allowance. 

Key Priorities

In 2019, UNHCR will focus on:
  • Advocating for fair refugee status determination procedures and quality decisions as well as providing support to the relevant government departments and civil society actors in protection of refugees and asylum-seekers;
  • promoting physical and legal protection of refugees and asylum-seekers, through working towards minimizing the threat of violence and enhancing social cohesion between refugee and local communities;
  • in line with multi-year, multi-partner protection and solutions-strategy, continuing to establish and strengthen relationships with non-traditional stakeholders to enhance the protection of refugees and asylum-seekers in South Africa;
  • continuing to advocate through the Southern African Development Community for the strengthening of the protection of refugees and asylum-seekers as well as stateless persons in the sub-region, particularly through the Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa process.