Reunification of the Refugee Family in South Africa: A Legal Right?


  • Fatima Khan University of Cape Town Refugee Rights Unit



South Africa, family unity, family reunification, refugee law, human rights, international human rights law


Family unity is not considered a right within international refugee instruments and as a result the laws and policies of most states are silent in this regard. Family unity is however a legal concept which is addressed extensively in various other international law instruments. This paper contends that refugee law as a dynamic body of law is informed by these international law instruments and it should not be viewed as an isolated body of law and be denied the benefits there from. The right of family unity is often distinguished from the right to family reunification, which extends protection more specifically to families that have been separated that wish to reunite. Even though few human rights instruments specifically designate a right offamily reunification it will be argued that to deny family reunification is to effectively violate the right to family unity. This paper furthermore examines the right to family reunification as it applies to refugees, looking specifically at the current status of South African and international law. It will be emphasised that because refugee law is informed by international human rights law, it can support, reinforce or supplement refugee law.


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Author Biography

Fatima Khan, University of Cape Town Refugee Rights Unit

Fatima Khan (BA, HDE, LLB, LLM) is the Director of the Refugee Rights Unit. She is an Attorney of the High Court of South Africa and lectures the Refugee Law Course to the final year LLB students as well as Refugee law and Human Rights course to students at a Masters level (LLM, MPhil) in the University of Cape Town’s Faculty of Law.



How to Cite

Khan, F. (2013). Reunification of the Refugee Family in South Africa: A Legal Right?. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 28(2), 77–91.



Special Section on South Africa

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