South Africa issues plan to withdraw from major UN conventions in bid to take back control and send refugees back

​Aaron Motsoaledi, the home affairs minister

Aaron Motsoaledi, the home affairs minister, has announced plans to toughen immigration laws

Holly Bishop

By Holly Bishop

Published: 21/11/2023

- 22:39

The country’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) wants to 'overhaul' the entire refugee system

South Africa is planning to terminate its UN refugee treaties in a bid to tackle migration, after the government says it can no longer afford current asylum polices.

The country’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has announced plans to tough immigration laws in order to “overhaul” the entire refugee system.

In order to tackle their immigration issues, the South African government will temporarily pull out of both the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and the 1967 Refugee Status Protocol.

Whilst the country has momentarily withdrawn from the conventions, the government will aim to tighten up restrictions.

WATCH NOW: Rishi Sunak 'came out FIGHTING' against ECHR after Rwanda setback

Aaron Motsoaledi, the home affairs minister, said South Africa made an error by signing the treaties in the mid-1990s without insisting on opt-outs on particular clauses.

Under Motosaledi’s proposals, South Africa would re-join the UN conventions only after restricting refugee rights.

This includes the right to work, as well as for education and citizenship.

South Africa would be able to send refugees instead to countries that are not deemed dangerous.


The ANC implemented the laws at the end of Apartheid in 1994, however, Motsoaledi has critiqued the rules as being outdated and requiring a “radical overhaul”.

The home affairs minister said: “On this continent, the winds of change have been blowing hard and fast. Almost every week there is a coup somewhere in Africa.”

The ANC has argued that the country’s outdated system has been exploited by traffickers, criminals and economic migrants.

“The policy and legislative gaps within the Department of Home Affairs have created a fertile ground for violent clashes between foreign nationals and citizens, including [the] emergence of belligerent groups, either siding [with] or against the current migration system,” its white paper said.


Motsoaledi has critiqued the rules as being outdated and requiring a “radical overhaul”


The proposals come as South Africa is set to host its national elections next year.

Immigration is likely to be high on candidate’s agendas, as a recent poll revealed that 89 per cent of voters believed the ANC were not curtailing immigration well enough.

In the 2022 census, out of a population of 62 million, more than 2.4 million migrants were recorded.

However, officials say that these numbers are not accurate, as many asylum seekers have entered illegally and have not been accounted for.

You may like