News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Monday July 22nd 2019

Outrage as Home Affairs ignores court order


The Department of Home Affairs has ignored a Cape High Court order to process refugee papers in Maitland.

Refugee rights organisations are outraged that the Department of Home Affairs continues to turn away scores of new refugee applicants in Cape Town despite a High Court ruling to the contrary.

Following the closure of the Refugee Reception Centre in Maitland at the end of the June, and the department’s announcement that they would not be processing new refugee or asylum seeker applications at Customs House on the Foreshore, the Scalabrini Centre challenged the decision in the High Court.

Last week Judge Dennis Davis ruled in the Scalabrini Centre’s favour, ordering the department to immediately resume the documentation of new applicants in Cape Town.

But when West Cape News visited Customs House, where refugees can still get their permits renewed, this morning, a number of concerned new applicants needing to apply for their initial Section 22 Permits had been turned away and ordered to apply in Pretoria or Musina.

Burundian Ntakirutimana Deiudonne, 21, accompanied by two brothers, said they arrived in Cape Town three weeks ago and now live in fear of being arrested and deported back home as they cannot apply for permits.

Deiudonne, the only one among the three who could speak English, said they had tried four times already to get asylum papers but each time they had been ordered to go and apply in either Pretoria or Musina.

“I just want to say to the government, please give us papers. We are suffering. We cannot feed ourselves, we cannot get jobs. Life is hard for us,” he said.

He said they came to Cape Town because they knew some of their countrymen in the City and did not have money to go toPretoria or Musina to get asylum seeker documentation.

Odia Kambala, 32 from the unstable city of Goma in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). said he arrived in the city on July 13.

“I’m afraid of the police, if they arrest me and put me in prison that would be very bad. I’m begging for this permit because it’s difficult to get freedom of movement, a job or food without it,” he said.

He also had no funds to travel elsewhere for asylum papers.

A frustrated Bangladesh refugee who has a permit but was trying to help two newly arrived countrymen said the South African government should make it clear to the world whether or not they accepted refugees.

“If they don’t want refugees they should say it and we can go elsewhere,” he said.

Refugee rights activist Rudyard Moats from the Scalabrini Centre was at Customs House documenting people’s stories, said close to 40 refugees had been snubbed by the department since his arrival around 7.30am this morning.

“I’m also collecting the dates they arrived into South Africa… people are coming here many times and are being turned away,” he said.

Refugee rights lobby group People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (Passop) also slammed the department for disregarding a High Court order.

Passop’s paralegal officer Langton Miriyoga said they were concerned about the department’s lack of compliance and described the department’s actions as “inhuman and ruthless”.

Scalabrini Centre’s advocacy officer Rebecca Channels said they were “disappointed” but “not surprised” at the department’s reaction to the court order.

She described the move as “a shocking indictment on the ruling party (ANC)” and part of a “broader pattern” by the government to ignore court orders.

She said the department had ignored similar rulings in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg.

She said they would be going back to the High Court with evidence that the department was ignored a court ruling. – Francis Hweshe

Tags: Customs House on the Foreshore, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Department of Home Affairs, efugee Reception Centre in Maitland, Goma in North Kivu, Judge Dennis Davis, Langton Miriyoga, Ntakirutimana Deiudonne, Odia Kambala, Oppression and Poverty (Passop), People Against Suffering, Rebecca Channels, Refugee rights organisations, Rudyard Moats, Scalabrini Centre, section 22 permits

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