New amendments to the Refugees Act, introduced at the beginning of 2020, are likely to have an impact on any business or individual that regularly employs asylum seekers or refugees. Here are some of the most important amendments and their possible impact.
Extend an offer of employment
The right to work in South Africa may not be endorsed on the asylum seeker visa of any applicant who seeks to extend the right to work, after having failed to produce a letter of employment. An extension may, however, be granted if a letter of employment is subsequently produced while the employee’s asylum seeker application is still pending.
Work and study
Under the Refugees Amendment Act, asylum seekers will no longer have the automatic right to work and study. This right would only be ‘endorsed’ on an asylum seeker permit following an assessment process to determine whether the applicant could support themselves in any way. If an employer fails to provide such a letter to the Department of Home Affairs, an employer risks paying a fine of up to R20 000.
An immigration official will also be able to demand a paternity test from an asylum seeker who wishes to enter South Africa with his children. Failure will result in the child or children being handed over to social workers.
The amendments also include the ban on engaging in political activity. The regulations forbid refugees and asylum seekers from engaging in any political activity, even if it concerns issues in their home countries. Apart from the ban on political activity, the regulations also ban refugees and asylum seekers from visiting their home countries or visiting their local embassies in South Africa.
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