Following its first democratic elections in 1994, South Africa acceded to and ratified several refugee and human rights treaties, most notably the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the OAU Refugee Convention.14 The OAU refugee definition expands the 1951 Refugee Conventions narrow well-founded fear of being persecuted standard by including other grounds for refugee status, including flight across borders caused by external aggression, occupation, foreign domination, or events seriously disturbing public order in either part or the whole of his country of origin or nationality.
Both the UN Refugee Convention and OAU Refugee Convention impose certain obligations on host states to protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, including with regard to status determination and documentation, and uphold certain social and economic rights for refugees. Article 2 of the OAU Refugee Convention recognizes the granting of asylum as a mechanism to protect refugees; in particular, it notes that states shall use their best endeavors consistent with their respective legislations to receive refugees and to secure the settlement of those refugees, who for well-founded reasons, are unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin of nationality,15
The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (African Charter), to which South Africa is a party, guarantees for the rights of every individual, when persecuted, to seek and obtain asylum in other countries in accordance with laws of those countries and international conventions.16 The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees the right to the security of the person and prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention.17
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the OAU Convention on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, to which South Africa is a party,18 protect the rights of refugee and asylum-seeking children, and place obligations on states parties to ensure that such children are protected and assisted and have access to services such as legal defense, education, and others. Article 22 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child calls on state parties to take appropriate measures to ensure that children seeking asylum, including unaccompanied minors, receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance. Provision is further made for states to facilitate the tracing of family members or parents of any refugee child for family reunification.19
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which South Africa is a party, also protects refugees and asylum seekers from arbitrary detention.
Underlying the various international refugee and human rights conventions are the principles of non-discrimination and dignity, core tenets of South Africas constitutional democracy.20 The 1996 South African constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all individuals, including refugees and asylum seekers. The Bill of Rights entrenches the rights (among others) to human dignity, freedom and security of the person, and the right of everyone in South Africa to have access to housing and health care. The Constitutional Court of South Africa has interpreted with regard to access to social assistance that everyone includes nationals and certain non-nationals in particular permanent residents.21 The constitution further guarantees due process of law for all.22
Under the constitution, international law must be considered in the interpretation of the Bill of Rights and other national legislation.23 International law becomes legally enforceable in South Africa once it has been enacted into domestic law.24
The Refugees Act, which came into effect in 2000, provides the first specific refugee law framework for South Africa. It is a marked shift from the previous Aliens Control Act, which, as noted above, was essentially silent on refugee protection. The Refugees Act sets up the refugee reception offices which are tasked with issuing temporary permits to asylum seekers and with conducting eligibility and refugee status determination interviews. It also outlines the system of administrative appeals and judicial review, and establishes the Standing Committee for Refugee Affairs and the Refugee Appeals Board. Lastly, the Act outlines the rights and obligations of refugees and asylum seekers, including protection from refoulement,25 access to documentation, limited use of detention, and special provisions for unaccompanied children and the disabled. The Refugees Act is supplemented by its regulations,26 which provide detail on implementing the asylum application and refugee status determination processes.
 South Africa acceded to the OAU Refugee Convention in 1995 and the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol on January 12, 1996.
 OAU Refugee Convention, article 2(1).
 African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (African Charter), article 12. South Africa ratified the African Charter on July 9, 1996.
 The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 9(1). South Africa ratified the Covenant on December 10, 1998.
 South Africa ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on June 16, 1996; the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on January 7, 2000.
 UN Convention on the Right of the Child, article 22(2). A similar provision is contained in article 23 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
 The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 108 of 1996, section 7 (1) states that, [the] Bill of Rights is the cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.
 The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, sections 10, 23, 29, 26 and 27, respectively. On the interpretation of access to social and economic rights for non-citizens under the South African constitution see Louis Khosa and others v The Minister of Social Development and others, CCT 12/03; Saleta Mahlauli and another v The Minister of Social Development and others, CCT 13/03 at para 47. Also see footnote 242 below.
 The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996, sections 33 and 34.
 The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996, section 39(1) (b) and section 233.
 The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996, section 231(4).
 The principle of non-refoulement prohibits the return of a refugee to a country where his life or freedom would be threatened, and is the cornerstone of international refugee law. In addition to being incorporated into various international and regional instruments, the principle forms a part of customary international law.
 Refugee Regulations No. R 366, April 6, 2000 under the Refugees Act 130 of 1998.