South Africa Multi-Country Office - 2021 Plan Summary


Operational environment 

In 2021, the UNHCR programme in countries covered by the South Africa Multi-Country Office (Botswana, Comoros, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles and South Africa) will continue to focus on protection and solutions advocacy, protection services provision, advancement of the Global Compact on Refugees objectives, the implementation of the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness, as well as the identification of durable solutions for more than 276,000 people of concern largely based in urban locations.
The asylum space for refugees across different countries spans from strict encampment to free movement. The right to work for refugees is respected in four countries, including access to national services, assistance and naturalization opportunities, however unemployment and economic inequality – exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic – threatens the cohesion of fragile refugee-hosting communities. Gaps in legislation and refugee status determination procedural standards as well as inefficient registration and asylum processing, compounded by mixed flows, have led to backlogs in the adjudication of asylum claims. 
People of concern are included in national systems, particularly health and education and have access to employment in Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa. In South Africa, refugees also access social protection equally with nationals.
Partnership and coordination efforts are aligned with UNHCR’s protection and solutions strategy, as well as advocacy efforts for refugee inclusion in national development plans in collaboration with UN Country Teams in each country. UNHCR will continue to strengthen relationships with private sector actors, financial institutions, research and development entities in 2021 to ensure that emerging opportunities are harnessed.
The socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of concern has been significant, as thousands have lost their livelihoods, and social cohesion in host communities is under strain. To address growing livelihood and social cohesion needs, UNHCR will continue to provide cash assistance and livelihoods support to vulnerable refugees and host community families to help pay for essentials including food, rent and utilities. UNHCR will also maintain legal and protection services, including counselling and judicial engagement using remote means. 

Key priorities 

In 2021, UNHCR will focus on:

  • Strengthening national asylum systems in the sub-region.
  • Identifying comprehensive solutions, particularly for refugees in a protracted situation of displacement, as well as for former refugees still hosted in asylum countries.
  • Providing assistance to people at heightened risk, including gender-based violence survivors, persons with disabilities, and children.
  • Strengthening protection services and advocacy for the continued inclusion of people of concern into national systems, in particular health services as treatment for COVID-19 develops.
  • Improving the standard of assistance by empowering refugees, encouraging self-reliance and livelihoods as well as the use of cash assistance, particularly for people of concern affected by the pandemic.
  • Promoting the implementation of the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness by 2024.
  • Pursuing the multi-year multi-partner protection and solutions strategy for 2018-2021, as well as the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees in the sub-region and supporting the realization of Global Refugee Forum pledges.
  • Advocating for accession to and ratification of international and/or regional instruments on refugees, IDPs and stateless persons, lifting reservations to these instruments and supporting the development of a national legal frameworks.