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Immigrants in CT ‘live in fear’ as refugee centre remains shut

This June it will be seven years since the centre closed its doors. It means that asylum seekers have to travel to either Durban, Pretoria, Musina or Port Elizabeth.

Customs House in Cape Town. Picture: Cindy Archillies/EWN

CAPE TOWN - An NGO isn't letting up in its calls for the Cape Town Refugee Centre to be reopened.

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

Initially, the centre was due to reopen by March 2018, but the Home Affairs Department missed the deadline.

This June it will be seven years since the centre closed its doors. It means that asylum seekers have to travel to either Durban, Pretoria, Musina or Port Elizabeth.

WATCH: Cape Town refugee office remains closed after almost 7 years

Sitting with a group of foreign nationals during a programme at a Mitchells Plain centre, Mulovi Ibrahim from the Adonis Musati Project said many could not afford to travel outside the city.

Ibrahim assists more than 20 foreign nationals a week in getting protection letters from the UCT Law Clinic.

The process includes an interview and a background check. And once they had ascertained the reason for them being in the country, they would then receive a letter.

“When you encounter the police, the police will have to read the letter and will say that the Cape Town office is closed. I am still a refugee looking for a way to get to Home Affairs and to get documented.”

Ibrahim said the closure of the centre affected many foreign nationals as they were unable to access basic services. He added that many lived in fear because they were undocumented.

“We won a case last year that says it has to reopen, but up until today they are saying the facility isn’t big enough. The question is why it was big enough then and not big enough now. In Durban and Pretoria, the same facilities are still functioning.”

EWN contacted Home Affairs repeatedly, but it had not responded to questions about when the centre would reopen.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)