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Cape Town - The Home Affairs department must reopen a refugee reception office (RRO) in Cape Town, the Western Cape High Court ruled on Tuesday.
Judge Owen Rogers declared as unlawful a decision to close the Maitland office to new applicants for asylum after June 2012.
He ordered the department to have an RRO open and fully functional within the Cape Town metro by July 1.
Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor and three respondents were ordered to pay the costs of the applicants, plus that of two counsel.
The application was brought by the Scalabrini Centre, a non-profit organisation that assisted migrant communities and displaced people.
Last July, the centre obtained an interim order from the court requiring that the department assist all asylum seekers, after it refused to accept new applications.
The department applied for leave to appeal this order but this was dismissed last August.
It had stated that the closure was not planned and due to the expiry of the lease.
The People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (Passop) said that hundreds of asylum seekers had been unable to get documentation since last June and had lived in fear of being detained and deported to countries where their lives and freedom were at risk.
“In addition, many of the asylum seekers have been unable to access health care and schools because they were unable to acquire documentation from the department,” Passop paralegal head Langton Miriyoga said.
He called on the department to comply with the decision of the court.
In terms of the order, the department had to submit a report to the applicants' attorneys at the end of April and May.
In this report, the director general had to state whether compliance with the order was possible, and if not possible by the required date, give a best estimated date. - Sapa