HIAS Opens New Country Office in South Africa; Now Assisting Refugees in 24 Countries

DURBAN, South Africa — HIAS, the global Jewish humanitarian nonprofit that provides critical services to refugees, asylum seekers, and other forcibly displaced people around the world, has announced the opening of its newest country office in South Africa. With this expansion, HIAS’ network of more than 20 country offices continues to grow across Africa, Europe, the Latin America and Caribbean region, and the Middle East, along with the United States. 

“HIAS has long been interested in operating in South Africa, as a country which hosts a diverse community of asylum seekers and which is home to the largest Jewish community in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Mark Hetfield, HIAS President and CEO. “Driven as ever by the commandment in the Torah to welcome the stranger, HIAS is excited to partner with the South African Jewish community and with the country’s vibrant civil society that has been helping displaced people for decades.” 

“We are particularly excited that HIAS South Africa is beginning its operations in Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, a province where we will be able to benefit from the expertise and experience of partner organizations in civil society who have spent many years working with displaced people, but where there are numerous gaps that we can assist with filling,” said Country Director Alana Pugh-Jones Baranov. “HIAS South Africa’s initial focus will be on ensuring that refugees, asylum seekers, and other displaced people receive legal assistance, that they know their rights and are able to navigate the process to get the correct documentation. Our work will also have a focus on addressing mental health and psychosocial support as well as supporting women and children and the LGBTQ+ refugee community who are at risk of gender-based violence.”  

“Another key aspect of our work will be a focus on advocacy and combating and raising awareness on the rampant xenophobia and Afrophobia, where fellow Africans from across the continent are discriminated against in this country because they are foreign nationals,” said Baranov. “So much good work is being done by so many, but as the challenges grow, we feel that HIAS South Africa has an important role to play in capacitating existing networks and initiatives and coordinating and convening some of the efforts to assist and advocate for refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in the country.” 

“Our work is inspired by the values of the Jewish tradition, those of tzedek, or justice, and tikkun olam, or repairing the world, as well as the principles of human rights enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa and our Bill of Rights which protect the freedom, equality, and dignity of everyone who lives in South Africa,” Baranov said. 

Taking a localization approach and working through local partners, HIAS South Africa hopes to grow operations slowly and sustainably, and to expand its work to other geographic regions in the country and into other key areas such as livelihoods and economic integration in the future. Data monitoring and research, as well as interfaith outreach and social cohesion work between various local and refugee, asylum seeker, migrant and displaced communities will also inform HIAS South Africa’s activities.  

“By drawing on the expertise and best practices from HIAS offices and operations around the world, we hope to make a unique and powerful contribution to South African civil society in the refugee and human rights sectors and beyond,” said Baranov. 

Search HIAS