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Scalabrini Centre heads back to court over closure of Refugee Reception Office

The Scalabrini Centre said there had been little word from Home Affairs about details relating to the reopening of Cape Town Refugee Reception Office.

Refugees queue at the Customs House building in Cape Town. Picture: Cindy Archillies/EWN

CAPE TOWN - A local organisation will be heading back to court to demand that a dedicated official be appointed to oversee the reopening the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office.

The centre has been closed for almost seven years.

Last June, the Home Affairs Department explained the Public Works Department needed to find appropriate premises for the centre. This was meant to be done by 1 January 2019.

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

But to date, there was no indication as to where or when the centre would open its doors.

The Scalabrini Centre said there had been little word from Home Affairs about details relating to the reopening of the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office.

Scalabrini’s Sally Gandar said it was a lengthy process to get a refugee certificate in South Africa.

She said usually newcomers who were applying for refugee status were issued with an appointment date or slip for their application. In some cases, the appointment date was scheduled for at least six months. This often left foreign nationals undocumented until they applied.

Following the application, refugees receive a Section 22 permit. This permit has to be renewed on a monthly, quarterly or in six-month intervals and have to travel back to where they applied. Some people have this permit for more than seven years.

But this is not the end. Many refugees wait for months and even years to be recognised as a refugee.

Home Affairs insists it is complying with the court order and is submitting monthly reports.

Scalabrini said it had received some of the reports from the department but reiterates that they had missed the deadline.