A group of refugees and asylum seekers marched around the Cape Town CBD to bring attention to their plight. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

Cape Town - The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi concluded his two-day visit to South Africa, where he held a range of discussions with refugees and met with President Cyril Ramaphosa, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and senior Government representatives over the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.

Grandi said UNHCR is dedicated to work with authorities to help address concerns and find suitable solutions. He also commended South Africa's commitment to protecting people fleeing countries hit by conflict, violence and persecution.

“We appreciate South Africa's challenges of hosting refugees at a time of economic uncertainty and social tensions,” explained Grandi. “We will continue to support the government in its efforts to build social cohesion, and appreciate the President’s call for tolerance and dialogue”.

Grandi noted that resettlement to third countries is a limited option for refugees, as the number of resettlement places available globally is dropping. 

He stressed that refugees opting for voluntary repatriation should be helped to return to their countries of origin.  

According to government statistics, South Africa is currently hosting 268 000 refugees and asylum seekers from Somalia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

UNHCR acknowledges that South Africa is confronted with the challenge of tackling the issue of an increase in population flow, saying that asylum systems have come under immense strain as conflict and persecution drive more refugees across borders. Migrants have also resorted to asylum channels in the absence of other safe, regular migration options.