It is a difficult period for asylum seekers at the Desmond Tutu refugee reception centre in Marabastad‚ Asylum Seekers In Pretoria Refugee Centre Cries Out, Say ‘It’s A Living Hell, They Treat Us Like Dogs’ South Africa, as they opened up, saying it is a living hell to come to the facility as they are subjected to ill-treatment and demands for bribes.
One of the asylum seekers‚ even revealed that sometimes fall victim to thievery, as some of them were asked to surrender the little valuables left with them. Inside the centre‚ they face pressure to hand over cash to rude officials.
“They treat us like dogs. They have disrespect for us. If you don’t have money then you don’t get asylum. You have to pay every day (you come here). If you don’t give money‚ you don’t get asylum. It is five weeks I’m coming here and no asylum‚” said a man‚ originally from Bangladesh.
When on Monday‚ DA MP Haniff Hoosen visited the Durban refugee reception office‚ he said it is one of the offices worst affected by the closure of the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth reception offices.
The oversight visit followed reports the party had received stating that the Durban reception office is currently fully booked and unable to schedule appointments for new applications until August.
“This means that any new asylum seekers needing and wanting to declare their presence and regularise their stay in South Africa‚ by reporting to this office‚ will remain undocumented if they cannot afford to travel to Musina or Pretoria‚” explained Hoosen.
He commented: “The department’s ineffectiveness at processing asylum applications could contribute to an increase in illegal immigration.”
In Durban too‚ the issue of bribes being “openly and routinely demanded from applicants to be issued their documentation” was highlighted.
Hoosen said the DA has written to minister Malusi Gigaba to ask him about the steps his department is taking to re-open refugee offices in the two Cape cities.
In September 2017‚ the Supreme Court of Appeal found that the decision to close the Cape Town refugee reception office was irrational and therefore ought to be reviewed and set aside. The department’s appeal to the Constitutional Court was dismissed in December 2017 and it was ordered to re-open the Cape Town office by March 31.
“Not only has the Department failed to comply with this order but it has also failed to comply with another 2015 order to re-open the Port Elizabeth refugee reception office.”