The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the UN have signed a partnership to promote and protect the human rights of asylum-seekers, refugees, internally displaced people, and stateless persons in South Africa.
On Wednesday the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency, and SAHRC signed a Memorandum of Understanding formalising the rights promotion and protection partnership.
The agreement was signed at a virtual ceremony in Johannesburg and Pretoria led by Advocate Bongani Majola the Chairperson of the SAHRC and the UNHCR Representative to South Africa Leonard Zulu.
The memorandum provides the cooperation framework for the two organisations to join hands-on advocacy and human rights protection activities.
In recent years, South Africa has been plagued by sporadic recurrences of xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals.
In March 2019, the South African government launched its National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (NAP).
NAP’s mandate was to combat xenophobia by creating mechanisms to ensure foreign nationals receive services they are entitled to.
NAP was also formed to facilitate the integration of foreign nationals and embracing a humane and dignified approach to managing migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
Commenting on the Wednesday partnership signing, Zulu said: “Human rights are at the centre of the protection regime for persons forcibly displaced by conflict, persecution and violence.
“The congruence of our respective mandates is obvious. A person seeking international protection does so when he or she is no longer able to have national protection of their countries of origin
“In order to protect this individual, it follows naturally, that the person concerned must enjoy basic and fundamental human rights in the host country.
“Sadly, this very often does not occur automatically. It then becomes incumbent on institutions such as ours to advocate on their behalf.”
The partnership enables information sharing, protection interventions on individual cases, consultations, knowledge exchange, as well as cooperation on projects which promote human rights of persons of concern to UNHCR and the SAHRC.
As part of their joint engagements, the SAHRC and UNHCR will advocate progressive policies, legislation, processes and practices for the protection and promotion of human rights.
They will also advocate for the inclusion of persons of concern to UNHCR in national protection plans of South Africa.
Through the MoU, SAHRC and UNHCR, will take part in initiatives which promote social cohesion and peaceful co-existence between foreigners and South African nationals.
In addition, research projects will be conducted to further the advancement of human rights of all persons of concern.
The partnership will also enable the two organizations to promote the implementation of relevant UN General Assembly Resolutions, the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees, as well as the Global Action Plan to End Statelessness.
The SAHRC was inaugurated on 2 October 1995 as a constitutional body to promote human rights and fortify democratic rule in the Republic of South Africa.