South Africa says unable to take in Afghan refugees

Afghan Refugees

Refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, USA after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan August 27, 2021.

Photo credit: AFP

South Africa said it has declined a request to host Afghans who have fled into Pakistan to escape the Taliban, as it is already accommodating "a substantial number" of refugees from other countries.

The government said it had been approached "to consider receiving a number of Afghanistan refugees who have sought refuge in Pakistan."

"The request is that they be accommodated in South Africa en route to their final destinations," the foreign ministry said in a statement late Wednesday.

"The South African Government is unfortunately not in a position to accommodate such a request."

It said the country "is already home to a substantial number of refugees and is seized with addressing their needs. 

"Most of them already benefit from the Social Assistance and free medical health programmes offered by our country."

The most industrialised nation on the continent, South Africa is a major destination for economic migrants from neighbouring countries and beyond.

The country also boasts one of the world's most progressive refugee policies, which helped attract more than a million asylum-seekers between 2007 and 2015.

But the processing of their paperwork was backlogged even before the pandemic and most find themselves stuck in limbo after applications are rejected, according to rights groups. 

The Taliban celebrated Tuesday after the last US troops left the country, ending 20 years of war.

The Islamists' return to power forced Western countries to evacuate their citizens and Afghans likely to face reprisals from the Taliban for having worked for the foreign forces in the country.

"In terms of international law, the well-being of the refugees is best served by remaining in the first country arrival – Pakistan – pending their final destinations," the South African statement said.

Uganda last week accommodated 51 Afghan evacuees.

The east African country said it would provide them with temporary refuge following a request from the US government to temporarily host "at-risk" Afghan nationals and others who are in transit to other destinations. 


You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.