12 November 2010
Refugees and asylum permit holders in South Africa will from now on be able to apply for bank accounts in the country, the Department of Home Affairs announced on Thursday.
Until now, refugees could not own bank accounts in South Africa under the regulations of the Financial Intelligence Centre (FICA) Act. Financial services regulations require that anyone wanting to open a bank account in the country produce the green bar-coded Identity Document and proof of residence.
FICA director Murray Michel said the message would be communicated to all banks in the country from next week before foreign nationals could start applying for accounts.
Under the agreement with FICA, Home Affairs will provide banks with the ability to verify the authenticity of permits issued in terms of the Refugee Act. Information will be verified within two days.
In line with international practice
South Africa’s banks have been inundated with requests from asylum permit holders to open accounts.
The authorities said the decision was in line with international practice to help create a climate in which refugees and asylum permit holders could live their lives normally and with dignity, while engaging in the economy.
“It is our conviction that the agreement will give expression to [the] government’s commitment to care for all within its borders, while strengthening the department’s commitment to honour its international obligations in terms of support to refugees,” said Home Affairs Director-General Mkuseli Apleni.
He added that the agreement would continue until there was an amendment to the relevant legislation.