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South Africa

UNHCR’s South Africa Multi-Country Office (SAMCO) serves nine countries: Botswana, Comoros, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, and South Africa. Together they host approximately 260,521 people of concern to UNHCR.

South Africa hosts the majority of them, with 250,250 refugees and asylum-seekers living in the country. Countries of origin of refugees and asylum-seekers include Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Somalia, and Zimbabwe.

Unlike Namibia and Botswana, South Africa does not have a camp policy, and many of the people of concern reside amongst host communities.

Strengthening the asylum system is one of the key priorities in South Africa, where asylum-seekers are caught-up in a complex environment of mixed population flows. In January 2021, UNHCR launched a project with the Department of Home Affairs to clear the asylum backlog of approximately 153,000 cases by 2024.

 Interest in voluntary repatriation is growing, and UNHCR has supported 394 people to return safely to their countries of origin from Botswana and South Africa since the start of the year. Ending statelessness, enhancing the protection environment, and strengthening partnerships are also priorities in the region.

Additional information

For information about our work in South Africa:


Are you a refugee or asylum-seeker in South Africa? Find information about your rights and available services on our HELP site.

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Legislation and guidance

For legislation, case law and UNHCR policy relating to claims for international protection, visit Refworld.

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Office contact details

For information about our operation in South Africa, please contact us through our Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.