De­ci­sions of refugee board come un­der fire

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - SAKHILE NDLAZI

WHILE the world cel­e­brates World Refugee Day to­day, the high court in Pre­to­ria will hear le­gal ar­gu­ments by the So­mali As­so­ci­a­tion of South Africa ad­dress­ing the cri­sis of qual­ity refugee ad­ju­di­ca­tion at the Refugee Ap­peal Board.

It is con­tended that the board’s judg­ments re­flected a pat­tern of un­law­ful and in­ad­e­quate de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

In par­tic­u­lar on the ap­pli­cants’ cases there arose a trend of four com­mon er­rors fre­quently ap­plied by the board. These in­cluded the mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion and mis­ap­pli­ca­tion of the test for refugee sta­tus and ap­ply­ing the wrong bur­den of proof for asy­lum for ap­pli­cants.

Another is­sue is the ap­pli­ca­tion of the wrong ap­proach in as­sess­ing the cred­i­bil­ity of each claim and fail­ing to ap­ply­ing the prin­ci­ple of audi al­teram partem and re­spect­ing pro­ce­dural fair­ness.

“The re­sults of these er­rors lead to vul­ner­a­ble in­di­vid­u­als flee­ing war and in­ter­nal displacement fail­ing to ac­cess refugee pro­tec­tion de­spite be­ing ac­com­mo­dated by the Refugees Act and In­ter­na­tional Refugee Con­ven­tions,” said Sharon Ekam­baram, the head of the Refugee and Mi­grant Rights Pro­gramme at Lawyers for Hu­man Rights.

She said the board’s qual­ity of de­ci­sion-mak­ing re­lat­ing to these So­ma­lian asy­lum seek­ers was sys­tem­at­i­cally de­fec­tive.

As a con­se­quence, the ap­pli­cants are not only ask­ing the court to grant them refugee pro­tec­tion, but also struc­tural re­lief to iden­tify and ad­dress the un­der­ly­ing causes of the prob­lems in the board’s de­ci­sion­mak­ing which might re­sult in their not re­ceiv­ing pro­tec­tion un­der the law.

Each year on June 20, the UN, the UN Refugee Agency and civic groups around the world host World Refugee Day events in or­der to draw the pub­lic’s at­ten­tion to the mil­lions of refugees and In­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, con­flict and per­se­cu­tion.

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