23 October 2013
A decision taken in 2012 by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to stop processing new applicants at the Cape Town refugee reception office has resulted in asylum seekers having to travel long distances at great cost to be documented and renew their permits.
The DHA now stands accused of defying a 30 August 2012 Western Cape High Court judgement which ordered that the office should serve new applicants. Instead, hundreds of asylum seekers have been turned away, including those who originally got their asylum permits at centres outside Cape Town, but now live in Cape Town.
The judge had said delaying implementation of the court order would cause grievous harm to asylum seekers. While undocumented, they would be subject to arrest and deportation. He said the cost to Home Affairs of assisting newcomers was negligible compared to the harm.
Malvin Sele, a 25-year-old Cameroonian, arrived in Cape Town last year. He travelled to Pretoria to apply for an asylum document. He was given three months asylum, thereafter six-monthly renewals. He will be going to renew his papers again on 24 October 2013.
Sele has no family or friends in Pretoria. His transport cost is R600 one way. He says it costs him about R3,000 every time he goes to renew his document.
“The situation is stressful. Sometimes when I go for renewal, the officials tell me to return the following week. This is costly and my employer is not happy for me to stay away from work for a long time. I might lose my job.”
A Zimbabwean man, who did not wish to be named, said he must travel to Durban every three months to renew his documents. He has never been given more than a three-month extension. He said the Durban Home Affairs refugee office is not willing to transfer his file to Cape Town offices.
Bernard Toyambi of PASSOP said, “This month we have referred about 150 asylum seekers facing the same problem to the University of Cape Town Law Clinic for further assistance.”
“The DHA should extend the asylum documents until 24 October 2013 [tomorrow], when there will be another hearing on the same issue. We expect the judgement to come after three or four days.”
DHA Cape Town did not respond to GroundUp’s request for comment.