Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says great improvements have been made in the management of asylum seekers and refugees in South Africa.
Speaking at the reopening of the Port Elizabeth Refugee Reception Office earlier today, Gigaba said this has resulted in the country being able to accelerate the adjudication of asylum applications and the determination of the status of asylum applicants.
In 2011, the Department of Home Affairs announced the decision to close the Port Elizabeth Refugee Reception Centre for new asylum applicants due to, among other things, intensified pressure from the local business community in the vicinity.
The new office provides adequate space to ensure better services to persons with legitimate claims. It has a streamlined process flow; open spaces; baby-changing stations and multiple ablution facilities.
Provision has also been made to accommodate the Standing Committee for Refugee Affairs, Appeal Board hearings and immigration inspectorate facilities.
The Minister said the reception office is resourced with the perfect balance of human capital and up-to-date technology that allows to streamline services and efforts in assisting asylum seekers and refugees and deal with future obstacles.
It will further ease the strain currently placed on the Cape Town, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng refugee reception offices.
South Africa is committed to protecting refugees and strengthening institutional arrangements.
“Accordingly, following the adoption of our International Migration White Paper, we are in the process of updating our policies and regulations with regard to international migration and refugees.
“We have been clear over the years that South Africa does not have a refugee problem. We host a manageable number of refugees who reside in safety here in South Africa, among fellow South Africans,” Gigaba said.
Gigaba said in recent years false asylum applications by economic migrants overwhelmed the department’s system resulting in inordinately long wait times for decisions for applicants.
“Our new international migration policy presents a new approach to better manage irregular and economic migration.
“It is hoped that these improvements will reduce the number of unfounded applications particularly by economic migrants and improve speedy adjudication of asylum claims.”
The Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Office in Pretoria was once notorious for long wait times, client frustration and chaotic crowds, which were a breeding ground for corruption and other exploitation.
On World Refugee Day, Gigaba promised that a new Port Elizabeth Refugee Reception Office would be opened in October 2018.
In 2016 the Department of Home Affairs called on the UNHCR to ensure that there is an integrated and shared registration process for all refugees and asylum seekers.
And, in 2017 Parliament approved the Refugees Amendment Bill, which is another major achievement, which greatly improves the structures such as the Refugee Appeals Authority and the Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs. – SAnews.gov.za