‘Refugees have nothing to celebrate’

Asylum seekers on Wednesday made an impassioned plea to government to go back to its roots of ubuntu.

Asylum seekers mark World Refugee Day by marching to Parliament on 20 June 2012. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Asylum seekers on Wednesday made an impassioned plea to government to go back to its roots of ubuntu.

The foreigners, supported by various local organisations, marched to Parliament on World Refugee Day.

They called on National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu to stop the Department of Home Affairs from closing the Maitland Refugee Reception Centre.

Protester Alice Wamundiya said government should be reminded of the indignity of apartheid, before they move refugee reception offices to border posts.

"Remember what it felt like to carry a passbook? Use that experience when you deal with refugees."

People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty (Passop) leader Braam Hanekom said foreigners cannot celebrate equal rights in South Africa.

"Today is not a day of celebration. Today is a reminder that we need to keep struggling on."

The asylum seekers want Home Affairs to halt plans to close offices in big metros.

South Africa has the highest number of registered asylum seekers in the world.

In 2011, thousands of Zimbabweans queued around the country in a bid to be legally registered.

Around 254,802 people registered for the Zimbabwean Dispensation Project, which allows illegal nationals to live, work, study and have access to basic healthcare in South Africa.