Jeff Handmaker

Document Type

Published Articles

Publication Date



Balsillie School of International Affairs


South Africa only began accepting individual applications for political asylum in 1994. A policy designed to recognize former Mozambican refugees for the purposes of a repatriation program became the (awkward) basis of the asylum procedure up until April 2000. Criticized by some, a lively discussion raising often-contradictory views began in 1996, leading to a policy reform process culminating in the Refugees Act in December 1998. The Act only came into force at the beginning of April 2000. This article analyzes the process of policy development in South Africa, focusing on practical and theoretical challenges facing the government in the implementation of the new Act. Special attention is given to temporary protection, the proposed containment of applicants in reception centers, the arbitrary manner in which asylum is currently determined, and inconsistencies between the interfacing of the Refugees Act and the proposed immigration legislation. The paper concludes by asserting that the new legislation can be effective, but only if the government builds capacity, and if the procedure allows a fair opportunity for asylum applicants to be granted a credible hearing.