Minister Gigaba must be summoned to account to Parliament for ignoring court order to reopen Refugee Centres
5 June 2018
Please see video here.
Today, the DA conducted an oversight visit to the Department of Home Affairs Cape Town office in the Foreshore. This office only processes asylum seeker permit renewals and does not take new applications as the Cape Town Refugee Reception office was closed, illegally, in 2012.
The DA spoke with some asylum seekers who shared their frustrations with the process as well as the conditions at the current premises which pose a health hazard to both asylum-seekers and staff. In such close quarters tensions often run high, in some instances, resulting in instances where female staffers said they felt threatened.Security has been a serious issue at the facility as the previous contract with the security company came to an end. This has forced staff to act as security guards to manage access control which puts their safety at risk.
Refugee reception Offices are meant to receive and process new applications from people who are seeking asylum in South Africa. They also renew asylum seeker permits while these applicants await decisions on their permanent applications.
In September 2017, the Supreme Court of Appeal found that the decision to close the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office was irrational and therefore ought to be reviewed and set aside.
The Department’s appeal to the Constitutional Court was dismissed in December 2017. And the Department of Home Affairs was ordered to re-open the Cape Town Office by 31 March 2018.
Not only has the Department failed to comply with this order but it has also failed to comply with another 2015 order to re-open the Port Elizabeth Refugee Reception Office.
Currently, there is a backlog of 140 000 appeal cases currently with the Department of Home Affairs which need to be finalised.
The DA will now write to the Chairperson of the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee, Lemias Mashile, to request that Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba, be summoned to account for why these reception centres have not been reopened and for his continued non-compliance with court orders.
Clearly, the failure by Minister Gigaba to obey the courts is compromising the ability of the Department ensure asylum applications are processed and finalised efficiently.
The continued failure of the Department essentially means that it is contributing to the issue of illegal immigration.
To address this, a DA government would immediately address the criteria for the appointment of Refugee Status Determination Officers, who process and make decisions on asylum applications, as well as increase support to these critical front-line decision-makers to ease the backlog.
Most importantly, a DA government would ensure that the Department is run efficiently, by suitably qualified officials and that resources are allocated to ensure that we solve the issue of illegal immigration rather than contributing to it.
Issued by Haniff Hoosen, DA Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, 5 June 2018