Refugee Rights & Responsibilities in South Africa

Once you have undergone the asylum process and are recognised as a Refugee by the Government, you will be issued a Formal Recognition permit, also called section 24 permit.

Information on how to renew your permits, ID and Travel documents is available on the Online Renewal section.

What are your RIGHTS as a recognized Refugee in South Africa?

  • You have the right to a formal written recognition of refugee status: Formal Refugee Recognition – section 24 permit;
  • You have the right to enjoy full legal protection, which includes the rights set out in Chapter 2 of the Constitution and the right to remain in the the Republic of South Africa;
  • You can apply for permanent residence after five years of continuous residence in the Republic from the date on which you were recognized as a refugee, if the Standing Committee certifies that you will remain a refugee indefinitely;
  • You are entitled to an identity document and to a South African refugee travel document;
  • You are entitled to seek employment;
  • You are entitled to the same basic health services and basic primary education which the inhabitants of the Republic receive from time to time.

What are your RESPONSIBILITIES as a recognized Refugee in South Africa?

  • You have a responsibility to abide by South Africa’s laws, including COVID-19 regulations.
  • Apply for an identity card immediately (this ‘refugee ID’ is valid for the same time period as the refugee recognition document)
  • Must submit, in writing, an intention to extend refugee documentation, 90 days before it expires at the designated Refugee Reception Office
  • Cannot leave South Africa without a travel document, and may apply for a refugee travel document, if travel is going to be undertaken, and subject to further application requirements.
  • Must notify the officials at the Refugee Reception Office of any change in address.

The refugee document also states that it can be withdrawn ‘if the holder has been convicted and sentenced for a criminal offence’. In addition to these conditions, you also have the duty to provide accurate information to the Government, UNHCR and partners.

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