Speech

Commemoration of World Refugee Day

20 June 2013

Programme Director
The Representatives of UN High Commissioner for Refugees
The Director of ARESTA and other Refugee Organisations
Representatives of refugee organisations present here today
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen
Members of the media

Let me begin by expressing my appreciation for the opportunity to address this important gathering.

Welcome to this year's celebration of World Refugee Day.

This day honours the courage and determination of those who are forced to flee their homeland due to persecution or the breakdown of public order.

Today we remember and pay tribute to the more than 15 million refugees among the world's 42 million people uprooted by conflict and violence.  

This is the largest category of vulnerable people in the world.

This gathering, commemorating World Refugee Day, also coincides with the 62nd anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  

UNHCR is mandated by the United Nations to protect refugees and help them find solutions to their plight.

The Department of Local Government, the UNHCR Office in South Africa, together with its implementing partners, stakeholders, the refugee community and the host community, come together today to commemorate this group of people who have been uprooted from their countries and have sought sanctuary in South Africa.

The 2013 World Refugee Day campaign reflects "a call to action", thus the themes of this year are "One Family Torn Apart by War is Too Many" and "Sisonke in Building Communities of Peace and Diversity".

It is a time for humanity to reflect and pledge itself by forging new paths towards harmony. In the world today there are too many factors that lead to discontent and divisiveness and not many factors that lead to peace and unity.

Distinguished guests,

Effectively meeting the needs of refugees requires sound partnerships, particularly with the host community, municipalities and outreach initiatives.  

As a developing middle income country, South Africa has become one of the largest recipients of individual asylum seekers in the World.  

Our Country has one of the best refugee legislations that conform to international laws and standards.
Being a signatory to the 1951 Convention and through our Constitution, South Africa offers refugees the right to freedom of movement, the right to work and to access social services.

It is our responsibility to help refugees meet their legitimate aspirations.  

Having gone around and witnessed for myself the services being offered by ARESTA and the briefing I have been given about the work that many of you do towards social cohesion through refugee education, I would like to encourage all of you to keep on doing the good work.

With these thoughts in mind, it is a pleasure for us to launch this day the booklet entitled 'A useful guide for refugees' jointly produced by the Western Cape Local Government along with UNHCR.

This booklet aims to guide new asylum seekers and refugees with a reference guide to government departments and services available to them, such as South African Police Services, South African Social Security Services, Western Cape Department of Education, Health, Social Development and Community Safety, as well as the Department of Labour.  

This is a basic guide and ideally, the guide will be used in combination with the assistance of relevant service providers in the Western Cape.

Today, on this World Refugee Day, help us help refugees to have hope for their future and to promote tolerance.
In closing, let me reiterate that protecting refugees is primarily the responsibility of the state. The Western Cape Government will work closely with UNHCR, ARESTA and other stakeholders to ensure that refugees, who legitimately seek protection from persecution in whatever form, will have their hopes, humanity and dignity restored.

Thank you.

Media Enquiries: 

Peter Pullen
Cell: 082 574 3773