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Home Affairs introduces new machine-readable travel documents for refugees

Home Affairs Deputy Minister Fatima Chohan says that the new documents are more secure and should facilitate safer travel for refugees.

Asylum seekers stand in line with their documents outside a Home Affairs refugee centre. Picture: EWN

CAPE TOWN - The Home Affairs Department has introduced a new machine-readable travel document for refugees.

Just over 35,000 people sought asylum in South Africa last year.

Home Affairs and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees says that they're on high alert in the event of an influx of people seeking refuge in the country, in the wake of political instability in Zimbabwe.

The earlier version of the refugee travel document was introduced in 2009, when the number of refugees and asylum seekers peaked at over 200,000.

But international guidelines have prompted an update.

Home Affairs Deputy Minister Fatima Chohan says that the new documents are more secure and should facilitate safer travel for refugees.

“Refugees stand to bear a huge risk of exploitation when they travel outside of the country, including abuse, violence and even sometimes fall foul of human trafficking.”

Holders of valid, existing refugee travel documents will still be allowed to use them until the date of expiry.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)