Corruption at Home Affairs refugee centres in the spotlight

Corruption Watch says Home Affairs officials are running a black market at the expense of vulnerable refugees.

FILE: Asylum seekers waiting in long queues at the Home Affairs office in Cape Town. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Corruption Watch has described widespread fraud and corruption at the Home Affairs department's refugee reception offices as a black market.

On Wednesday, the African Centre for Migration and Society released the findings of a report, revealing the shocking extent of corruption in South Africa's asylum system.

Foreign nationals have apparently been paying bribes to have their paperwork processed.

Corruption Watch said officials are running a black market at the expense of vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees.

The organisation's Kabelo Sedupane said, "This is a very deep-rooted system, it's a whole economy on its own."

Sedupane said other foreign nationals have also been found to be involved in paying bribes.

"Even foreign nationals themselves there are certain nationalities who work with the department, who work with the officials, who work with the security guards in getting money."

The organisation said it is hoping to work closely with home affairs authorities to uncover the root of syndicates and see the removal of corrupt officers.

Foreign nationals reportedly have to pay multiple bribes at reception offices to have their paperwork finalised.

Researchers say the single person decision making system is an ideal breeding ground for corruption.

Some respondents of the study have reported having to pay a bribe to translators to ensure their version of events is translated accurately.

On average, asylum seekers have reported being forced to pay at least four bribes to have their legal documents finalised.

Investigations have found that bribes are paid for a number of reasons, including directing applicants to the correct queue.