Home Affairs Dept slammed over Cape refugee office delay

The Public Works Department has confirmed the facility expected to be ready by 1 January.

FILE: The entrance to the Refugee Reception Centre in Cape Town. Picture: EWN

CAPE TOWN - The Scalabrini Centre, a non-profit organisation, has slammed the Home Affairs Department after learning the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office will only open next year.

The Public Works Department has confirmed that the facility expected to be ready by 1 January.

The centre has been closed for almost six years, affecting thousands of immigrants.

The centre’s Miranda Madikane says there are only three places in South Africa where new asylum seekers can apply. This is in Durban, Pretoria and Musina.

Refugees living in Cape Town, who registered elsewhere, also cannot renew their permits at Customs House on the Foreshore.

Madikane says because of the logical hassle, many allow their permits to expire.

“For those who have permits and didn’t make their first claim in Cape Town, every three months they have to travel back to the office where they first applied with their entire family.”

Recently, the Scalabrini Centre and the Somali Association launched a new case to get Home Affairs to comply with a December Supreme Court order to open a fully functioning office in Cape Town by 31 March.

Home Affairs says it has no interim plan in place before the centre can open next year.

Meanwhile, asylum seekers at the Desmond Tutu Refugee Centre in Tshwane say they are often subjected to victimisation and poor service from officials at the Home Affairs facility.

Some foreign nationals at the Marabastad centre told the Democratic Alliance (DA)’s John Moodey during an oversight visit that they were intimidated by officials while criminals capitalise on their vulnerability.

A woman from Cameroon shared her experience at the centre.

“There is this worker in Home Affairs, he said he is one of the security. He always comes in with a very long whip. He says if you don’t listen to him, he is going to whip you so much.”

Moodey said he was convinced allegations against officials are true.

“My experience here is definitely indicative of something like this happening. There were being herded like cattle here."

The department has described the visit by the DA as an ill-considered political publicity stunt at the expense of asylum seekers.

WATCH: Fear and frustration at Desmond Tutu Refugee Centre

Additional reporting by Masechaba Sefularo.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)