I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes and blown out on the trail
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn.
‘Come in’, she said, ‘I’ll give you shelter from the storm.1

No one except the singer/poet himself seems to know what this song is about – if it is not refuge of some sort. However, most refugees have fled their home country not for romantic reasons but due to persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality or political opinion – or because they are fleeing war or violence.

In 2011 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated their number to be 15.1 million,2 and this figure had risen to 15.4 million within a year.3 Internally displaced people – those who have fled their homes, but not crossed any borders – account for an additional 28.8 million.4

The Refugees Act 1998 provides for, and regulates the obligations of South Africa to relevant international arrangements, conventions and declarations concerning refugees, asylum-seekers, and other matters in their regard. It falls under the authority of the Minister of Home Affairs but, for all intents and purposes, the Act is administered by the Director-General: Home Affairs.

  1. Any person who commits any fraudulent act, or makes any false representation, for the purpose of entering or remaining in the Republic is guilty of an offence.5

  2. Any person who does this to facilitate or assist the entry into, or residence in, the Republic for himself or any other person commits a criminal offence.6

  3. Any person who contravenes the conditions of any permit issued to him in terms of the Act is guilty of an offence.7

  4. Any permits which become null and void (because, for example, they are replaced by other permits, or status) must be returned to the Director-General. It is an offence to fail to do so.8

  5. Lastly, the Act stipulates that it is a crime not to comply with, or to contravene any provision or requirement of the Act.9 There do not appear to be any provisions at present that could be contemplated applicable. There are many requirements set out in the Act: for example, a Refugee Reception Officer must accept the application form from an applicant for asylum (that is, refugee status)10 and must see to it that the application form is properly completed.11 It could hardly be a criminal offence if somehow the officer did not comply with these duties. There are several similar provisions.

  1. The 4th verse of ‘Shelter from the Storm’ by Bob Dylan (1975). Released on his 15th album – regarded by critics as possibly his best – ‘Blood on the Tracks’. 



  4. Op cit

  5. Section 37(a). 

  6. Ibid

  7. Section 37(b). 

  8. Section 22(7). 

  9. Sections 37(c) and 37(d). 

  10. Section 21(2)(a). 

  11. Section 21(2)(b).