Appeal court grants Somali refugees a second chance
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CAPE TOWN - Nine asylum seekers can renew their appeal for refugee status after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled on how refugee applications must be dealt with and adjudicated
The asylum seekers, who fled Somalia, sought an order reviewing and setting aside decisions of the Refugee Appeal Board (RAB) after they were refused refugee status.
As ordered by the SCA, the applicants’ appeals were referred to the RAB for fresh hearings, to commence no later than October 4, with decisions to be made by November 5 this year.
The appeal dealt with the legality and fairness of the process adopted by the RAB, including whether it complied with its duty to assist asylum seekers to get evidence and information for decisions it had to take.
In their founding affidavits, the asylum seekers detailed how they were compelled to flee the civil war and resulting humanitarian crisis in Somalia.
“In their affidavits, the eight asylum seekers described the refugee status determination process that each had been subjected to and set out the attendant circumstances.
“Each had completed the standard application form for refugee status at a Refugee Reception Office.
“These were required to be completed in English. None of them, at the time, was fluent in that language.
“Even though almost all of them were provided with an interpreter, the quality of the interpretation, so they alleged, was wanting. One of them was not provided with any interpreter at all,” the judgment read.
Prefacing his judgment, Judge Mahomed Solomon Navsa said: “Before dealing with how the appeal arose, it is necessary, at the outset, to accept that there is a legitimate State interest and concern to ensure that refugee status is granted only to those who qualify, to disqualify unfounded applications and to provide for the cessation of refugee status. In the case of persons who have come to our country to seek asylum and those who might ultimately qualify for refugee status, the following two quotes are apposite: ‘Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more'.”
In a second quote, Navsa quoted author Khaled Hosseini.
“Refugees are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, with the same hopes and ambitions as us – except that a twist of fate has bound their lives to a global refugee crisis on an unprecedented scale.”