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Gigaba says Refugee-shop owners are a headache for Home Affairs

According to the article Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Friday that a large number of asylum seekers and refugees in South Africa are economic migrants who started businesses without having completed the process of verifying their status in the country.

Gigaba Says Refugee Shop Owners A Headache For Home Affairs

The government believes asylum seekers should not run businesses in South Africa, he said, but according to the Supreme Court of Appeal no law prevents refugees and asylum seekers from getting licences to establish spaza shops in the Republic.

"Refugees in South Africa have a right to conduct business. However, it becomes difficult with those who are asylum seekers because the terms of their stay in the country have not been verified," Mr Gigaba said.

The government was looking at appealing against the Supreme Court of Appeal ruling in the Constitutional Court, he said.

While constitutional law expert Shadrack Gutto said: "We have to be guided by the constitutional framework on the rights of people in South Africa, citizens or noncitizens and to start with our Bill of Rights ... and I don’t see what the department will do unless it seeks a constitutional amendment."

Asylum seekers and refugees without income in the Republic a heavily reliant on non-profit organisations for their survival. Senior researcher at the Gauteng City-Region Observatory Sally Peberdy said it would be ill-advised to stop asylum seekers from starting their own businesses, unless other provisions were made to sustain their livelihoods.

"It … might contravene international conventions. SA holds no financial responsibility to asylum seekers, however, if you prevent them from pursuing (economic) opportunities, then who is going to feed them?"

The observatory conducted research into the economic activities of migrants in SA’s informal business sector in Gauteng and found a high rate of self-employment among migrants from southern Africa.

SA has the third-highest number of asylum seekers behind Germany and the US, according to the UN. SA currently harbours more than 70,000 refugees.

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