System backlogs and slow processes frustrate refugees
REFUGEES continue to face systematic challenges in South Africa, with over 200000 asylum seeker (people who have fled their country and are seeking international protection as refugees) applications still pending.
Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town’s Corey Johnson said: “A major problem is keeping their documentation valid, particularly after the closure of the Cape Town, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth Refugee Reception Offices.
“This means asylum seekers residing in Cape Town have to report back to the office they applied at for any permit renewal or interviews.”
Johnson said this was difficult sometimes for personal reasons such as financial issues, family and health, as well corruption and irregular administrative practices present at Refugee Reception Offices.
Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa’s Roshan Dadoo seconded what Johnson said.
She added: “The proposed Refugee Amendment Bill, limits the rights of asylum seekers. It proposes border processing centres, which means people will have to remain in detention at the border until their status is reviewed.
“They say they will process applications in three days, but with a 10-year backlog I am not sure how they are going to do that.”
Home Affairs spokesperson David Hlabane said: “All these applicants have been adjudicated and finalised at first instance by the department and decisions issued to them. They have since taken the decisions to appeal or review processes.”
Dadoo said refugees were frustrated at being left in “limbo” with much uncertainty.
She said with the backlog of applications, many people were undocumented and being punished for it.
“The department needs to concentrate on improving its current systems.
“A proper determination process needs to be put in place. You can’t decide to reject 90% of applicants,” said Dadoo.
Dadoo recommended employing more staff at Home Affairs offices.
She said: “It would create so many jobs, instead of spending millions on new infrastructure to keep people out.
“Who is going to look after them while at these border centres. They have rights according to legislation.”
Johnson said systemic challenges in the refugee status determination process resulted in only 4% of applicants being formally recognised as refugees during their first interview.
“This means many legitimate refugees – such as individuals fleeing persecution and conflict from Somalia, Burundi and the DRC – then have to rely on the appeal process which is a protracted process and often takes years to finalise,” he said.
Lead by The Voice of Africa for Change, over 60 foreign nationals came together yesterday, marching to Parliament for the recognition of their rights.
Multi-national flags in hand, singing and shouting “We are fighting for our rights.”
“We are thankful to the government for hosting us. But we ask that our rights as refugees be respected,” said the organisation’s Germain Kalombo.
Yesterday marked World Refugee Day, which highlighted the plight of 65.5 million people who have been displaced, globally.
Hlabane said of the above 218 300 cases, the standing committee on refugee affairs has prioritised review cases brought to them.
“Their workload is around 40%. The remainder of the case load is awaiting finalisation of their appeals by the Refugee Appeal Board. The main challenge with the appeal is that they are required by law to consider matters at a quorum.”
He said the department has since approached Parliament seeking amendment of this requirement.
Hlabane added: “Once that amendment comes into force these cases will be concluded quicker.
“It is envisaged that the amendments will come into force early next year if they pass legal muster.”
The government should improve current systems Who’s going to look after them at centres