South Africa has recently been spared the long-term, large-scale refugee movements seen by other countries on the continent, although its own external and internal history has seen it contribute to displacement in other countries, create refugees out of its own people, and face internal displacement as a result largely of political violence. In recent years, and in common with many other States, South Africa has had to deal with the question of how to deal, procedurally and substantively, with refugees and asylum seekers within its territory. The 1999 Refugees Act is part of the answer to that question, and this article examines the debate which preceded its enactment, and at the role played by a number of local and foreign specialists, service providers and international and local organisations. The substantial number of civil society interventions and the willingness of governments to consider them are a relatively new but welcome phenomenon in South Africa; it remains to be seen how the evolving discourse will help to settle various outstanding issues, as well as the problems of practical implementation likely to emerge.

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ISS Staff Group 2: States, Societies and World Development
International Journal of Refugee Law
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)