Angolan former refugees are being issued Angolan Special Permits (ASP) due to expire in 2021 following years of precarious legality in the country.
In 2012, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) recommended that, due to changes in Angola, governments could cease refugee status for Angolan nationals. Pursuant to this UNHCR recommendation, the South African government, along with the UNHCR and the government of Angola agreed that Angolan refugees living in South Africa no longer needed the protection of the South African government. This was because they agreed that the Angolan civil war had concluded and political stability had returned to Angola. In 2013, the South African government announced cessation of refugee status for Angolan nationals, and between May and August 2013 the South African government withdrew refugee status from Angolans who had previously been recognised as refugees in South Africa. Many Angolans had initially fled to South Africa in late 1990s and early 2000s, making them some of the first refugees in post-apartheid South Africa. At the time of cessation many Angolans had been living in South Africa for an average of 18 years or more.
The large majority of Angolan former refugees that wished to remain in South Africa were granted an Angolan Cessation Permit (ACP) in an Angolan passport issued to them upon withdrawal of their refugee status. These ACPs were valid for only two years. The Angolan refugee community in South Africa expressed deep concern over the fact that the ACP was only available for a short amount of time and provided for temporary relief for a community that had developed roots in South Africa. Research has found that there is a deep level of socio-economic integration of Angolan refugees in South Africa.
As the expiry dates of the ACPs approached, it became apparent that the permit holders could not extend these permits, due to the strict regulations of the Immigration Act. In May 2014, the Scalabrini Centre embarked on engagements with the Department of Home Affairs in order to advocate for continued legal stay for ACP holders, under relaxed immigration conditions, and based on their strong ties to South Africa. The Scalabrini Centre motivated to the Department of Home Affairs to extend these permits or provide permanent residency for this very specific group of people who had spent significant portions of their lives in South Africa. These requests were declined by the Department of Home Affairs.
In October 2015, the Scalabrini Centre submitted an application for permanent residency made on behalf of the entire category of ACP holders. This application resulted in further legal engagements with the Department of Home Affairs, where the Department eventually agreed to grant the category of an “Angolan Special Permit”. This permit was valid for a period of four years, and are due to expire in 2021. The deadline or expiry date for the Angolan special permits is a cause of ongoing concern for the Angolan community in South Africa, and is an area of interest for the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town. The Centre continues to engage with both the Department and the Angolan community in order to assist in pursuit of a durable and long-term solution.