Refugees back at Customs House

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Copy of refugees INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Foreign nationals walking along the alley alongside Customs House on the Foreshore which is temporarily housing Home Affairs since the closure of the Maitland Refugee Reception Centre. Photo: Henk Kruger

Concerns about the plight of refugees in Cape Town continue as Customs House once again opened its doors to Home Affairs on Monday.

The relocation of the Maitland Refugee Reception Centre to the Foreshore was met with mixed reactions.

On Friday the Maitland centre closed its doors indefinitely, while the Western Cape shut its doors to “newcomers” – refugees arriving in the country for the first time.

New asylum seekers must be processed at refugee reception offices in Durban, Pretoria and Musina.

Customs House on the Foreshore and Home Affairs in Barrack Street will be assisting foreigners to renew their permits.

Customs House will deal with the adjudication of outstanding asylum-seeker cases, section 22 permit extensions, and the verification of section 22 and section 24 permits.

At Barrack Street people can apply for refugee IDs and travel documents for section 24 permit holders.

People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (Passop) director Braam Hanekom, said the anticipated disruption of services was a major concern.

He said some files had reportedly not been moved to the new centre by Monday afternoon and that those with expired documentation would face fines of around R2 500.

For some people who queued early, the process was “quicker” than anticipated, but one added that it was “early days”.

Malawian Thomas George, who went to Customs House to renew his asylum-seeker permit, said he arrived at around 8.30am and had his papers in hand at around 11am.

“This was better than Maitland, I was served a lot quicker here, but it’s still early days and that was only my experience. It might be different for others,” George said.

Abshir Mohamad Adam, from Somalia, said: “It’s only the first day but so far it’s much better. It was crowded inside, but it’s too early to say what will happen.”

Home Affairs’ Zandile Ratshitanga said the closure of the Maitland centre was the subject of a court hearing at the Western Cape High Court on July 19, and she therefore could not discuss the merits of the case.

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