About Us

Agency for Refugee Education, Skills Training & Advocacy  - ARESTA

About Us


To ensure that refugees and asylum seekers are integrated into the South African society and that they enjoy full democratic rights and benefits as provided by International instruments, the Constitution and local legislation.

Our mission is to contribute to the successful integration as a solution for asylum seekers and refugees through advocacy, training, skills development, education and research.

ARESTA fulfils a practical empowerment role in educating and providing skills to refugees and asylum seekers, helping refugees develop their own strengths in order for them to become self-reliant during their stay under the protection of the South African Government.

ARESTA Objectives:

  • To develop a long term re-integration strategy of refugees into South African community;
  • To promote Refugee rights awareness and protection of refugees & asylum seekers;
  • To facilitate job creation and income generation activities within the refugee community: empower Refugees toward self-sustainability;
  • To develop and strengthen partnerships and networks with other Refugee service providers, governmental institutions, structures and/or agencies;
  • To conduct research on voluntary repatriation as alternative to local integration;
  • To develop a comprehensive contingency plan and strategy to combat and address xenophobic violence.

The Advocacy and Legal Assistance has assisted over 200 clients in 2014 to obtain documentation from Home affairs and access basic services. Its health interpretation services has benefitted over 1000 clients in 2014 only. The department prepared four articles which were published in the Newsletters, posted on the website and one sent to the Portfolio Committee of Home Affairs.

ARESTA has established a good working relationship with the Department of Health and Media Training Centre to address challenges of access to health services by refugees and asylum seekers in the Western Cape.

Referrals system with key stakeholders has been working exceptionally well and helped in finding solutions to some difficult cases, e.g. shelter, victims of gender based violence among others.  The relationships with refugee community leaders as well as support groups have greatly helped in the dissemination of information to refugee communities in their respective constituencies regarding their rights and obligations.

ARESTA also managed to build a relationship with the city of Cape Town, Bellville sub-council which culminated in the staging of “the Tygerberg heritage festival” which will be an annual event bringing together refugees, asylum and local communities to show case their different cultures and above all embrace social cohesion.

In summary, advocacy and lobbying work made a huge impact in the lives of refugees and asylum seekers and such provided positive returns on a number of issues which include among others; access to banking, health, psychosocial support, education, peer education and documentation.

Today, we recognize single-parent families, zero-parent families, same-sex families, blended families, virtual families, families of convenience, and more. A large proportion of women are being attracted to employment outside of their homes.

The old concept that a man must be the primary bread-winner of the family, while the spouse is supposed to take care of the home, is a myth dying. Both men and women work and take turns taking care of the home and family. This applies to refugee, asylum seekers and South Africans at large.

The changes we see are men entering the project for all skills sorts offered by ARESTA so that they become bread winners at the end of the day and women are left behind to look after the household.

ARESTA has made inroads in the surrounding areas of the Athlone Gugulethu, Philliphi, Mannenberg, Hanover Park.  MitchellsPlain and surrounding areas  that refugee and asylum seekers reside in  thus making a positive difference in communities around the Western Cape When our students succeed, our organisation prospers and different societies benefit and we can honestly say we have achieve our goals. On the 3rd of July 2014, over 50 learners graduated after having completed their respective programmes.

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Community Education Campaign

Within ARESTA, the Community Education Campaign (CEC) exists to capacitate community members and empower them to facilitate social cohesion in their respective areas.

The primary avenue to combat issues surrounding the plight of refugees occurs through the Workshops of Tolerance and Acceptance. The CEC team conducts a series of trainings at the primary and high school level during the Life Orientation Skills class period.

The Workshop of Tolerance and Acceptance aims to combat issues of xenophobia, racism, and discrimination by increasing learner knowledge of the issues. It also aims to be a catalyst, changing the mindset of the learners and fostering a tolerant and understanding attitude towards refugees and asylum seekers.

Through the Ubuntu Has No Borders Trainings, the CEC team equips identified community leaders (chosen after extensive discussions with the stakeholders at all levels) with the knowledge to effectively navigate through issues of conflict resolution, conflict management and conflict transformation. Skills of mediation and negotiation are also developed during this two-day training.

This training series is conducted with students enrolled in schools, out-of-school youth (ages 18-35), and adults living in the Cape Town Townships. Upon completion of the training, the CEC team acts as a supporter, continuing to empower and assist these individuals with the necessary means to combat issues hindering social cohesion their communities.

The workshops and training series are aimed at promoting awareness and understanding amongst the general public of the plight of refugees and asylum seekers, building bridges and promoting social cohesion between local communities and refugees

Advocacy and Legal Assistance

Domestic legislation provides the basis for effective protection, recognition and enjoyment of rights for refugees and asylum seekers, with the main pieces being the Constitution and the Refugees Act.

However the enjoyment and exercise of such is the core cause of concern mainly due to

  • Unfavorable policies
  • Ignorance of the provisions of the latter by refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Ignorance of the provisions of the latter by government officials and South African nationals.
  • Blatant xenophobia of some government officials

The Advocacy and Legal Assistance program is therefore aimed at addressing the above challenges, through :

  1. The rendering of legal assistance to aggrieved refugees and asylum seekers
  2. Increasing awareness amongst government departments, officials, other stake holders, eg banks, refugees and asylum seekers.
  3. Moving for the formulation of more favourable policies through making oral and written submission to Parliament.
  4. Providing health care interpretation at health institutions.

Adult Education and Training

ARESTA believes that integration can best be achieved through, amongst others education.

For that reason, ARESTA offers the following to refugees, asylum seekers, and South African nationals.

Level 1 – English language, Literacy and communication, Numeracy.
Level 2 – English Language, literacy and communication, Mathematical Literacy, and Integrated Studies
Level 3 – Fundamentals, English language Literacy, Literacy and Communication, mathematical Literacy, Life Orientation.

In addition, ARESTA offers Computer Training Courses to refugees and asylum seekers. Recently, ARESTA further introduced Xhosa classes which are open to refugees only to encourage integration.
AET grew out of adult literacy.

The adoption of AET rather than adult literacy work was the result of political struggle by informed research. In spite of fine achievements of adult literacy work in the struggle, literacy alone was not considered adequate to support real social transformation.

AET was meant to offer an appropriately adult route to a general education aimed at making a significant improvement in quality of life. Another aspect is that the trends leading up to crime and other factors determining the full impact of education to mainstream leavers leave AET open to deliver.  

Vocational Skills

ARESTA funds refugees and asylum seekers willing to undertake/study towards the following programmes,

  1. Food and drink services
  2. Food preparation
  3. Chef’s assistant
  4. Housekeeping
  5. Catering
  6. Commercial cleaning

ARESTA believes that these courses will empower refugees to be sustain themselves in the communities and in turn encourage/facilitate local integration. After completion of the training, beneficiaries are skilled to work in the hospitality industry in environments such as hotels, guest houses, and catering companies.


If you would like to help by giving some of  your time, please contact us!  Volunteers are a valuable resource for innovation and research.

The goal of ARESTA Volunteers is to place energetic and motivated volunteers throughout the Cape Town network of Refugee service providers. This gives volunteer's desired experience of working in small NGOs and with Refugees, while at the same time providing the network with human resources, expertise and time, to fill tasks otherwise not accomplished. Volunteers are a valuable resource for innovation and research to enhance our programmes.

How we Work?
We provide volunteers with concise task descriptions. The volunteer will get defined roles, responsibilities, and expectations for the task they are going to perform. Furthermore, you will be properly inducted like any staff member and receive monthly supervision from the volunteer manager.

What is required of the volunteer?
We understand that people have other commitments and a life to lead. All we require is about 2 hours a week for a minimum of 3 months, depending on the task or project.

Your own ideas and projects - At ARESTA Volunteers we encourage all our volunteers to be pro-active. Several volunteers, after their initial contracts were finished, developed their own ideas and projects.
























Refugee-Asylum Seeker

Refugee-Asylum Seeker

Who is a refugee?

- a person who owing a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reason of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

- or a person whose life, physical safety or freedom is endangered because of sexual orientation, violation of human rights, events seriously disturbing peace or public order such as national conflicts, civil wars and other disasters in their countries of origin.

Who is an Asylum seeker?

An asylum seeker is a person who has lodged an application for asylum with the Department of Home Affairs and who is waiting for a decision on refugee status.

What are their rights and obligations?

According to the conventions and legislations the Republic of South Africa is a signatory to, Refugees and Asylum seekers are afforded virtually the same rights as South African nationals (accept the right to vote).

Refugees and Asylum seekers' rights:

  • Full legal protection of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution;
  • Not to be forcibly deported from the Country except as provided for under its international and national obligations;
  • Seek for employment, get self employed, and enter into contracts and leases;
  • Acquire movable and immovable property;
  • Access primary and emergency health care services;
  • Benefit from basic primary education, access secondary and tertiary education;
  • An identity and travel document.

Refugees and Asylum seekers' responsabilities:

  • Respect and obey the laws and regulations of the Republic of South Africa;
  • Respect the rights of others in the Republic.

Section 22 Permit: Temporary, renewable permit contemplated in the 1998 Refugees Act, issued to an asylum seeker as a testament that the bearer's claim for asylum is still to be certified, allowing the bearer to reside in South Africa, but prohibiting work and study (Unless otherwise stated).

Section 24 Permit: Identification document contemplated in the 1998 Refugees Act granting refugee status to bearer and allowing him/her to reside in South Africa for a period of two years (renewable).







Assessment & Development plan


  • Educational & intellectual ability, desires & employment possibilities
  • Psychological health & life trauma
  • Physical health & medication
  • Spiritual life – how they feel about God & themselves spiritually (includes forgiveness & belief)
  • Social life – family, friends & daily house interaction
  • Moving on plans

Beauty for Ashes Provision

  • Accommodation free of charge until person begins to earn
  • Food, clothing, toiletries and taxi fare for essential meetings with correctional office, job interviews etc.
  • Attainment of an official Identity document
  • Health care (physical)
  • Psychological care i.e. counselling
  • Education and training
  • CV writing and interview advice
  • Legal Clinic – free legal advice
  • Economical ‘on the job’ cooking skills and buying of food
  • Budgeting skills and handling money
  • Mediation between family members
  • Reconciliation of mother and children

Management of Halfway House System

Training, coaching and supervision -

  • Supervision, coaching and training for house parents & staff/volunteers
  • Supervision of management & staff
  • Selecting suitable candidates for the halfway house
  • CMC at Pollsmoor Female Prison
  • Rules and regulations of house and indemnity certificate
  • Procedural practice once entering the home
  • Length of stay at halfway facility
  • Decision making and authority structures
  • Board of directors and constitution
  • Firm financial control, auditing and daily bookkeeping
  • Reports and follow up
  • Criteria and selection of staff & volunteers
  • Funding

The Challenges and Risks

  • Measuring  success
  • Demotivation because progress is slow & work is difficult at times
  • Lack of funds
  • Lack of professional help
  • Lack of professional training
  • Too great a reliance on volunteers
  • Maintaining a good relationship with the Department of Correctional Services & the local prison authorities


  • The organisation Beauty for Ashes (RF) NPC has been in existence since 2002 (14 years) and it has managed to sustain itself throughout this time.
  • Several church organisations, individuals and Trusts have contributed financially to the work of Beauty for Ashes (RF) NPC over the years.
  • The National Lottery Distribution Trust is one such donor.
  • The Department of Correctional Services realised the excellent work of Beauty for Ashes (RF) NPC and
  • entered a 'Service level agreement' of partnership with Beauty for Ashes (RF) NPC whereby the department and Beauty for Ashes (RF) NPC now work together towards the successful reintegration of ex offenders into community. The Department of Correctional Services provides Beauty for Ashes (RF) NPC with a financial stipend on a monthly basis.
  • New legislation as to the funding of halfway house (specifically) by the Department of Social Development is also on the cards so funding should be forth coming from this source as well.