Document Type

Migration Policy Briefs

Publication Date



Balsillie School of International Affairs


In the 1980s, civil war in Mozambique forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring countries, including South Africa. Formal refugee status was granted only after the civil war ended, with the signing in October 1992 of a Tripartite Agreement between Mozambique, South Africa and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The majority of these former Mozambican refugees clearly wish to remain in South Africa, as few took advantage of a UNHCR offer of free repatriation to Mozambique in the early 1990s. In 2000, an estimated 200-220 000 former Mozambican refugees remained on South African soil. The South African Cabinet decided in December 1996 that Mozambican refugees who wished to remain in the country should be given permanent residence status. This amnesty was eventually implemented between August 1999 and February 2000 by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). Unlike earlier amnesties, a number of NGOs participated in the outreach, advocacy and monitoring components of the amnesty’s implementation. This paper presents a detailed examination of the amnesty process, including its planning, the criteria for eligibility, the information campaign, the application procedures, the problems encountered and the lessons learned. Recommendations from this document can be drawn upon to develop appropriate responses to any future refugee influx to South Africa, whether from neighbouring countries or further afield. This report was prepared by Nicola Johnston of the Wits Rural Facility.