South Africa has introduced a hugely improved refugee travel document in a major step towards better refugee and asylum-seeking management, the Department of Home Affairs said on Wednesday.
The Machine Readable Travel Document for Refugees has been designed and developed, using the latest passport production technology and security standards to include a pure polycarbonate data-page for personalization by laser engraving, department spokesperson Mansur Jaffer said.
The new version is fully compliant with guidelines of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO), according to Jaffer.
With enhanced security features, the travel documents will help reduce the risk of document and identity fraud, Jaffer said.
The document will not only increase security and trust among states, but also enhance the level of confidence in the users, who will travel with them, he added.
South Africa has a large number of refugees coming into and leaving the country. From a peak of over 200,000 refugees and asylum seekers coming into the country in 2008 and 2009, the numbers have decreased drastically to 71,914 in 2014.
In 2015 and 2016, South Africa reported 62,159 and 35,377 refugees coming into the country respectively.
The country is trying to strike a balance between its humanitarian values and responsibility to ensure safety and security for all citizens and migrants alike, said Fatima Chohan, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs.
“We are giving further effect to our strong human rights culture that was introduced from 1994 to replace the crime of apartheid while ensuring that the right to security for citizens as well as migrants are upheld,” she said.
This development is also another step in efforts to improve services in the country, not only for South African citizens, but also for migrants who find themselves in difficulties in their home countries, Chohan said.
Sharon Cooper, Regional Representative of the UNHCR, praised South Africa for the introduction of the new document.
Travel documents can enable access to basic services and rights, allowing refugees to pursue education, work abroad or seek possibilities for family unity, further strengthening their self-reliance and resilience of refugees, as well as their ability to lead independent and stable lives, Cooper said.
“Furthermore, travel documents can facilitate solutions, allowing refugees to take up opportunities for resettlement and voluntary repatriation,” said Cooper.