Associate Professor and Director, Refugee Rights Unit, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa


It is widely accepted that to be naturalised one must acquire the nationality of a political or national community, and that such a status is accompanied by various rights. It is also widely accepted that nationality can be acquired in various ways. Article 34 of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees provides that States must facilitate the naturalisation and assimilation of refugees and expedite these proceedings as far as possible. As South Africa has not filed any reservations to the UN Refugee Convention, it is bound to respect Article 34 of this treaty and thus not block the pathway to naturalisation. Failure to do so means that South Africa is violating its obligations under international law. There is a legal pathway to ending refugee status in South Africa; however, it is bound by a complicated process regulated by three different pieces of legislation , namely, the Refugees Act, the Immigration Act, and the Citizenship Act. It therefore appears that South Africa has not enacted this provision in good faith. This article provides an analysis of South Africa’s domestication of Article 34 of the UN Refugee Convention. Moreover, it concludes that the current system is complicated and hinders refugees from accessing naturalisation, and therefore is not in the spirit of the UN Refugee Convention.

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