14 May 2014

South Africa: Op-Ed - How the UN in Cape Town Deals With Refugees - an Insider's Account


An internship with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) earlier this year was a frustrating experience for staff; even more so for the refugees. By Delphine Pedeboy for GROUNDUP.

I spent six weeks as an unpaid intern with the UNHCR. People who have experienced working for the UN warned me about the inefficiencies of this bureaucratic giant, but I wanted to experience it for myself.

The organisation's office in Cape Town was established following the xenophobic attacks in mid-2008. It deals with a huge number of refugees, mainly from Somalia and the Great Lakes region (DRC, Congo-Brazzaville, Burundi and Rwanda).

The purpose of the UNHCR in Cape Town is to protect refugees from ongoing attacks and to refer them to important services. The organisation works with several partners in Cape Town, who they refer the refugees to. Essentially, the UNHCR is the middleman between the refugees and these third-party organisations, such as ARESTA, Cape Town Refugee Centre and UCT Law Clinic.

The office to date only has five permanent members of staff. This is insufficient to meet demand. As I gathered over the course of my time there, the UNHCR Head Office for South Africa in Pretoria, however, believes the...

Copyright © 2014 Daily Maverick. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.