Activists slam tough policies on refugees

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Babalo Ndenze

Political Bureau

THE Department of Home Affairs has been criticised by a refugee rights organisation and lawyers over its new “restrictive” approach to dealing with asylum seekers.

On Friday Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said the government needed to beef up its system to categorise SA citizens and foreigners to secure the population register.

She said a new refugee process was needed, and people claiming to be refugees should not abuse laws.

The department has been criticised by People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (Passop) for implementing some of the ANC’s proposed policies before their approval by the party in December.

An ANC proposal to clamp down on foreign-owned spaza shops was criticised as misguided by Passop.

The department said SA accommodated more asylum seekers than all EU member countries combined.

Dlamini Zuma said more than 95 percent of those applying for asylum were not genuine refugees.

The ANC’s policy document says asylum seekers are “looking for work or business opportunities” and “robust steps” must be taken to “refuse asylum to asylum seekers who have transited through one or more safe countries”.

Passop’s Braam Hanekom said the department would have to take responsibility if its stance caused xenophobic tension to escalate.

“That 95 percent rate in the ANC document is just hearsay. It’s simply unacceptable. There’s already a high rejection rate because of unacceptable adjudication,” he said.

Hanekom said an example was how asylum status was refused to a man from Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, even though his country was at war and he was persecuted as an albino and a homosexual.

He was told by the adjudicators to change sexuality, Hanekom said.

Fatima Khan of the UCT Refugee Law Clinic said there had been a policy shift under Dlamini Zuma.

“There are far more restrictions on approvals for refugee or asylum status. There’s no focus on the human rights aspect and that’s where the minister is erring,” she said.

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