Our Vision

is to act as an integral part of a welcoming and enabling environment where refugees are integrated within South Africa

Who we help:


The terms asylum-seeker and refugee are often confused: an asylum-seeker is someone who says he or she is a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated. National asylum systems are there to decide which asylum-seekers actually qualify for international protection. Those judged through proper procedures not to be refugees, nor to be in need of any other form of international protection, can be sent back to their home countries.

The efficiency of the asylum system is key. If the asylum system is both fast and fair, then people who know they are not refugees have little incentive to make a claim in the first place, thereby benefiting both the host country and the refugees for whom the system is intended.

During mass movements of refugees (usually as a result of conflicts or generalized violence as opposed to individual persecution), there is not - and never will be - a capacity to conduct individual asylum interviews for everyone who has crossed the border. Nor is it usually necessary, since in such circumstances it is generally evident why they have fled. As a result, such groups are often declared "prima facie" refugees.


The practice of granting asylum to people fleeing persecution in foreign lands is one of the earliest hallmarks of civilization. References to it have been found in texts written 3,500 years ago, during the blossoming of the great early empires in the Middle East such as the Hittites, Babylonians, Assyrians and ancient Egyptians.

The 1951 Refugee Convention spells out that a refugee is someone who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country."

Global migration patterns have become increasingly complex in modern times, involving not just refugees, but also millions of economic migrants. But refugees and migrants, even if they often travel in the same way, are fundamentally different, and for that reason are treated very differently under modern international law.

Migrants, especially economic migrants, choose to move in order to improve the future prospects of themselves and their families. Refugees have to move if they are to save their lives or preserve their freedom. They have no protection from their own state - indeed it is often their own government that is threatening to persecute them. If other countries do not let them in, and do not help them once they are in, then they may be condemning them to death - or to an intolerable life in the shadows, without sustenance and without rights.

Displaced Children

Whether they are refugees, internally displaced, asylum-seekers or stateless, children are at a greater risk of abuse, neglect, violence, exploitation, trafficking or forced military recruitment. They may also have witnessed or experienced violent acts and/or been separated from their families.

However, children are highly resilient and find ways to cope and draw strength from their families and communities. By learning, playing and having space to explore their talents and skills, children can be active members of the community.

CTRC works to protect children of concern in partnership with children themselves, their communities, national authorities and relevant local and international groups and non-governmental organizations.  This includes, for example, conducting best interest assessments for vulnerable children, referring unaccompanied or separated children to partners to have access to family tracing and reunification services, and engaging children through activities and education that build their skills and capacities.

CTRC promotes non-discriminatory access for all children of concern to national child protection systems and is committed, in the spirit of partnership, to strengthening these systems where gaps exist.

Older People of Concern

There is limited awareness of the rights, needs and contributions of older people during crisis situations and an urgent need to raise their profile among humanitarian decision-makers and practitioners. Older refugees and asylum seekers have specific needs that are routinely neglected in humanitarian planning and programming. Older people can be particularly vulnerable during conflict or natural disasters. Lack of mobility, weakened vision and chronic illnesses such as arthritis or rheumatism can make access to support difficult, and aid services often do not take these issues into consideration. In times of displacement, older people are sometimes reluctant to leave their homes and are therefore often the last to flee from danger. Once displaced, older people suffer great upheaval and often become both socially isolated and physically separated from their families, increasing their vulnerability.

Through the UNHCR's Age, Gender and Diversity Mainstreaming (AGDM) approach, CTRC is working to ensure integrated and inclusive programming so older people can actively participate in planning and implementing emergency response activities to meet their human rights, protection needs, and ensure access to basic services.

People of Concern with disabilities

The World Health Organization estimates that about 15 per cent of the world’s population has a disability. Although no global figures are available, this suggests that several million people who live with disabilities are forcibly displaced. Despite this, people with disabilities remain largely invisible or forgotten in their uprooted communities. Despite efforts to take better care of people at greater risk, assistance and protection measures designed for the majority very rarely meet the specific needs of those with disabilities. Due to a lack of identification and referral procedures, poorly adapted services, and poor access, hundreds of thousand of people with disabilities are effectively deprived of the humanitarian aid to which they are entitled.

People with disabilities are specifically vulnerable to physical, sexual and emotional abuse and may require additional protection. The lack of privacy in some situations, such as a lack of access to toilets and bathrooms, increases the risk of abuse. People with disabilities are very often isolated from community life; they risk being left behind when those around them flee and may face difficulties accessing family tracing programmes.

Women and girls

In many societies, women and girls face specific risks and are less likely than men and boys to have access to their rights, due to their gender roles and position in society. In situations of displacement, these risks – particularly discrimination and sexual and gender-based violence – can be exacerbated. Community support structures break down and traditional or formal justice systems may not uphold women’s rights. Unaccompanied women and girls, women heads of households and pregnant, disabled or older women may face particular challenges.

Women and girls comprise about half of any refugee or asylum-seeker population. CTRC works to promote gender equality and ensure their equal access to protection and assistance. The integration of a gender perspective cuts across all sectors. For example, shelters should be safe for women and offer privacy, and assistance in construction or maintenance should be available. Food distribution systems should take family roles into account and ensure it reaches all.

CTRC also uses targeted actions to address specific protection needs. Programmes to increase girls’ enrolment and retention in school can overcome economic or cultural barriers to their education. Initiatives to increase women’s leadership and participation in decision-making help to identify and respond to their protection needs. The provision of sanitary materials improves health and increases freedom of movement. Livelihoods support can ensure women are not forced to engage in survival sex to provide for their families.

Despite the many challenges, displacement can enable women to take on new roles and instigate positive change. With the appropriate support, refugee women can improve their lives and the lives of their children, families and communities.

Young men and boys

Young men and boys are often neglected in discussions of forced displacement, and yet they have particular needs and are confronted with specific threats to their life and liberty. These males are often most directly affected by the armed conflicts which provoke refugee movements. They are at risk of forced recruitment into armies and militia groups and often experience a serious loss of self-esteem as a result of the way that gender roles change when households and communities go into exile and become recipients of international assistance.