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Behind the Scenes of South Africa’s Asylum Procedure: A Qualitative Study on Long-term Asylum-Seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Maria-Teresa Gil-Bazo


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Despite the difficulties experienced by asylum-seekers in South Africa, little research has explored long-term asylum applicants. This exploratory qualitative study describes how protracted asylum procedures and associated conditions are experienced by Congolese asylum-seekers in Tshwane, South Africa. Eighteen asylum-seekers and eight key informants participated in the study. All asylum-seekers had arrived in South Africa between 2003 and 2013, applied for asylum within a year of arrival in Tshwane, and were still in the asylum procedure at the time of the interview, with an average of 9 years since their application. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. The findings presented focus on the process of leaving the Democratic Republic of Congo, applying for asylum and aspirations of positive outcomes for one’s life. Subsequently, it describes the reality of prolonged periods of unfulfilled expectations and how protracted asylum procedures contribute to poor mental health. Furthermore, coping mechanisms to mitigate these negative effects are described. The findings suggest that protracted asylum procedures in South Africa cause undue psychological distress. Thus, there is both a need for adapted provision of mental health services to support asylum-seekers on arrival and during the asylum process, and systemic remediation of the implementation of asylum procedures.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Schockaert L, Venables E, Gil-Bazo MT, Barnwell G, Gerstenhaber R, Whitehouse K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Refugee Survey Quarterly

Year: 2020

Volume: 39

Issue: 1

Pages: 1-30

Print publication date: 01/03/2020

Online publication date: 21/02/2020

Acceptance date: 27/10/2019

ISSN (print): 1020-4067

ISSN (electronic): 1471-695X

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/rsq/hdz018

Notes: This is the result of a collaborative Project with Doctors Without Borders (MSF). MSF has paid the Open Access fee and the article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any me- dium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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