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Urban refugees: definitions, legal position and wellbeing in South Africa. TIPS 2008 Cape Town T Dalton-Greyling . INTRODUCTION. In May 2008 foreign nationals from other African countries were attacked in several areas of South Africa due to xenophobia: 62 people died

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Urban refugees: definitions, legal position and wellbeing in South Africa

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Urban refugees: definitions, legal position and wellbeing in South Africa

  • TIPS 2008

  • Cape Town

  • T Dalton-Greyling

TIPS Conference 2008


  • In May 2008 foreign nationals from other African countries were attacked in several areas of South Africa due to xenophobia:

    • 62 people died

    • several hundred were injured

    • 25 000 displaced

  • Refugees in South Africa - have increased notably from 6 619 in 1997 to almost 30 000 in 2006

  • The estimated number of forced migrants

    vary between 2 million and 8 million

  • The xenophobia and the ever increasing

    numbers of refugees and migrants

    from neighbouring African countries pose

    new challenges to the South African Government

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  • New refugee act - Refugee Act 30 of 1998, adopted in 2000

  • It spells out the protection, rights and obligations of refugees.

  • But even after the implementation of the Act there are still many indications that the refugees in South Africa are not well off,

  • for example they are:

    victims of xenophobia,

    displaced from their homes,


    and returned to their homelands.

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  • The number of refugees and migrants in South Africa are increasing notably

  • Xenophobia is widespread

  • There is a new Refugee Act to protect refugees

  • Against this background it is important to establish the level of wellbeing of refugees in South Africa compared to the wellbeing of South African citizens.

  • The level of wellbeing will indicate if the Refugee Act protects the rights of refugees and if government policy contributes to the wellbeing of refugees

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  • Studies have been undertaken:

  • to ascertain the reasons for migration and to emphasize the risk of impoverishment of displacees,

  • to establish the wellbeing of individuals in both developed and developing countries.

  • This paper may be one of the first to link the literatures on refugees and wellbeing in developing countries

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  • Definitions

  • Refugee protection and support

  • Analyses and comparisons of wellbeing

    of refugees and South Africans

    in Johannesburg

  • Conclusion

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What is a refugee?

According to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol on Refugees

  • A person must be persecuted due to

    • race,

    • religion,

    • nationality

    • being a member of a social group

    • a specific political opinion

    • also according to the OAU definition

    • violence.

  • A person must be outside his/her country and fear for his/her life.

  • The person can be in any geographical area.

  • There is no time restriction to when this “event” must have occurred.

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Refugee status and asylum seekers

  • To be classified as a refugee,

    • need to apply for refugee status.

  • Countries that signed the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol have refugee status determination procedures

  • If a persons fulfil the requirements – they can be classified as a refugees – and receive protection

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1951 United Nations Convention and

Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees

1969 Convention governing the specific aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa

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Freedom of religion

Free access to the courts of law

The right to work

The right to housing

The right to education

The right to public relief and assistance

Freedom of movement within the territory

The right not to be expelled from a country

The right to be protected from forcible return or refoulment

Refugees must respect the laws and the regulations of a host country

A person is not protected if he permitted a crime

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  • a written recognition of refugee status

  • enjoy full legal protection

  • have the right to apply for an immigration permit in terms of the Aliens Control Act of 1991 after five years of continuous residence in South Africa

  • are entitled to identity documents (ID)

  • are entitled to travel documents

  • can seek work

  • refugees have the same right to basic health and primary education as the citizens of South Africa

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Constitution of South Africa – Chapter 2

  • Dignity

  • Life

  • Equality before the law

  • Freedom of expression, assembly and association

  • Freedom of movement

  • Right to adequate housing

  • Health care

  • Sufficient food and water

  • Social security

  • Basic education

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Wellbeing and Subjective Wellbeing Definition: Wellbeing

Amartya Sen, describes “wellbeing” as being well,

  • to have the freedom of choice to choose what one can become and can do (Sen, 1999)

  • to be healthy, well nourished, and educated

  • Sen’s view of wellbeing influenced the way economists thought and measured wellbeing

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Subjective wellbeing

  • Measuring wellbeing - objective indicators and subjective indicators.

  • Subjective wellbeing became an important field of study

  • Clark and Oswald (1996) and Oswald (1997) - showed in research that to maximise subjective wellbeing was the ultimate objective of most people.

  • Subjective wellbeing – more theoretically attractive as:

    • the standard theory on utility and revealed preference often failed to explain individual decision making (Timothy and Gruen, 2005).

    • cross-sectional and panel data have become available with information on subjective wellbeing, which allows for empirical research.

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Measuring Subjective Wellbeing

  • “How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with your life overall?”

  • to establish individuals’ self-evaluation of their own well-being at that moment in time.

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Subjective wellbeing

  • Since late 1990s the number of empirical studies have increased significantly

  • psychological research has indicated that self-reported measures of wellbeing are adequate and reliable when analysing human wellbeing (Hinks and Gruen 2006)

  • Studies focused on the determinants of happiness in developed countries,

  • Frey and Stutzer (2002) discussed the factors that seem to play a role in explaining human happiness.

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Subjective wellbeing in developing countries

  • Determinants of wellbeing - studied in developing countries.

  • Studies on South Africa were undertaken by:

    • Knight & Gandhi (2004),

    • Powdthavee (2005) and

    • Hinks & Gruen (2005)

  • and in other, mainly central European developing countries by:

    • Namazie & Sanfey (2001) and Hayo (2003).

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Factors that influence wellbeing in developed countries

  • age,

  • income,

  • type of employment,

  • marital status,

  • and health status.

  • inflation,

  • unemployment,

  • economic growth and

  • income distribution

    (Clark and Oswald (1994), Oswald (1997), di Tella et al (2001), Blanchflower and Oswald (2003), Ng (1996), Diener and Scollen (2003) and Gruen and Klasen (2005)

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Factors that influence wellbeing in South Africa

  • relationship between

  • happiness or subjective wellbeing,

  • absolute income levels,

  • relative income levels,

  • health,

  • marital status

  • and economic activity

  • Hinks and Gruen (2006), Kingdon and Knight (2004), and Powdthavee( (2005)

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  • Ten criteria for determining wellbeing were selected

  • Selection was restricted by the dataset, “Migration and the New African City” - no health data

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The criteria were:

  • housing type,

  • marital status,

  • educational level,

  • employment status,

  • income per week,

  • age,

  • crime,

  • relative income,

  • future expectations

  • and future residence in the country.

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  • 600 non-nationals (200 Somali, 200 Congolese and 200 Mozambicans) and a control group of 200 South Africans.

  • Mozambicans - Rosettenville.

  • Somalis - Mayfair and Fordsburg,

  • Congolese Yeoville, Berea and Bertrams.

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  • Considered only refugees and asylum seekers and South African citizens - not other migrants

  • 403 refugees and asylum seekers

  • 199 South African citizens

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Figure 1: Housing type

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Table 1: Marital status

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Figure 2: Education level – percentage of individuals that completed different educational levels

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Figure 3: Employment status– percentage of individuals according to economic activity

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Figure 4: Income per week

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Table 2: A victim of crime

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Table 3: Age

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Table 4: Income compared to income of others in the community

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Figure 5: Do you expect your children’s lives will be better or worse than your own life?

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Figure 6: Where do you expect to stay two years from now?

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Table 5: Summary of the main findings

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Table 5: Summary of the main findings

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Table 5: Summary of the main findings (continued)

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.Majority of the criteria indicated that the percentage of refugees experiencing wellbeing was lower than the percentage of South Africans.

Subjective questions

  • the majority of refugees felt that they were poorer than average

  • 32% of the refugees would rather move to either a third country or their home country than stay in South Africa,

  • more than six times more refugees felt that their children will be worse off in South Africa than themselves.

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  • Act 30 of 1998, which establishes the rights of refugees in South Africa - is not fully enforced,

    • for example the I.Ds issued to refugees have 12 digits instead of 13.

  • xenophobia experienced in South Africa.

  • xenophobia also leads to lack of job opportunities and a tendency to underpay refugees.

  • misconceptions of locals about refugees for example their low level of education and the “stealing of South Africans jobs”

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  • Government should address problems experienced with the implementation of Act 30 of 1998

  • Locals should be informed about refugees and the misconceptions they have must be addressed.

  • The scarce skills refugees have should be used to contribute in the development of South Africa.

  • Active policy measures should be taken to provide protection to refugees and change the attitude of law enforcement officers against foreigners in South Africa.

  • All this will also contribute to decreasing xenophobia.

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  • To estimate the subjective wellbeing function of refugees (Logit).

  • To address the problems of implementation of the rights of refugees.

  • Current research performed by FMSP examines the contributing factors to xenophobia

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