United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR)
OFFICE IN SOUTH AFRICA
Street: Metropark Building, 8th Floor, 351 Schoeman
Postal: PO Box 12506, Tramshed 0126
tel: 27 12 338 5301
fax: 27 12 322 0216/0221
HISTORY AND PRESENT STATUS
The Statute of the Office of the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees, detailing its functions and responsibilities,
was embodied in resolution 428(V)(1950), and the
Office came into being on 1 January 1951. The UNHCR
reports annually to the UN General Assembly through
the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The mandate
of the UNHCR is renewed every five years.
The work of the UNHCR is humanitarian and non-political.
Its principal functions are to provide international
protection to refugees, seek durable solutions to
their plight and furnish them with material assistance.
Protection involves preventing refoulement, (i.e
the forcible return of the refugee to a country
where he may have reason to fear persecution). In
seeking durable solutions to refugees' problems,
UNHCR attempts to help those who wish to go home
to do so, and tries to assist them to reintegrate
into their home communities. Where this is not feasible,
assistance may be given in countries of asylum or,
failing that, to resettle them in other countries.
Material assistance is provided in the form of food,
shelter, medical aid, education and other social
South Africa was elected in February 1997 to serve
on the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's
Programme. The membership is for an indefinite period,
for as long as South Africa wishes to be a member.
The Executive Committee determines the general policies
under which the UNHCR plans, develops and administers
refugee projects and programmes and advises the
High Commissioner, on request, on the discharge
of the duties under the Statute of the Office.
Membership is on the widest possible geographical
basis from those states (members of the UN and others)
with a demonstrated interest in, and devotion to,
the solution of the refugee problem. There are currently
OTHER DEPARTMENTS AND COOPERATING ORGANISATIONS
Department of Home Affairs
Lawyers for Human Rights
Commission on Human Rights
RELEVANT TREATIES AND PROTOCOLS, ETC.
UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees
28 July 1951
UN Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees
31 January 1967
South Africa acceded to the latter Convention/Protocol
on 12 Janauary 1996
OAU Convention Governing Specific Aspects of Refugee
Problems in Africa 10 September 1969
South Africa signed the Instrument of Accession
on 15 December 1995 (the Instrument of Accession
was deposited on 15 January 1996)
South Africa has a direct input, through the Executive
Committee (EXCOM), to the general policies under
which the UNHCR plans, develops, and administers
refugee projects and programmes. The EXCOM also
administers the allocation of funds for projects
and programmes and advises the High Commissioner.
The UNHCR assisted South Africa with
the repatriation of Mozambican refugees as well
as South African exiles who wished to return;
the drafting of the 1998 Refugee Act.
a campaign against Xenophobia in South Africa.