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Experiences of a hidden population : life stories of refugees within Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.

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Refugees, as forced migrants, have suffered displacement under conditions not of their own choosing, rather from a lack of choice, finding themselves in new settings, new places and new hardships. When refugees abandon their own home, community and country, they do so because there is a probability of losing all rights and face being murdered, tortured, raped, imprisoned, enslaved, robbed or starved. This thesis investigates the lives of refugees in Pietermaritzburg. More specifically, the thesis examines why and how refugees come to Pietermaritzburg, how refugees are treated (by locals to public officials), the hardships that refugees face, and their livelihood options. The main method used was the life story approach, whereby the refugees wrote their own life story, providing detailed information and an in-depth understanding of their hard and often tragic experiences. After entry into South Africa various hardships are experienced. A major difficulty is the application process, whereby South Africa has failed to adequately manage the flow of asylum seekers into the country and is faced with a serious backlog of refugee claims. In KwaZulu-Natal alone 35 137 applications were received at the Durban Refugee Reception Office with 27 539 of those pending. Refugees in South Africa are perceived by the public as criminals, „job stealers‟ and are often used as a scapegoat for the country‟s social problems. This thesis presents a framework to better understand the problems experienced by refugees, as well as some policy recommendations to remedy the situation. It provides a detailed account of the stories of refugees in Pietermaritzburg and the lack of assistance offered to a growing population of concern.


Thesis (M.Sc.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2008.


Refugees--KwaZulu-Natal--Pietermaritzburg., Theses--Geography.