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Reopening of Foreshore refugee centre welcomed

A woman is seen trying to keep warm next to a fire outside the Refugee Reception Centre at the Foreshore. Asylum seekers, who arrived as early as 1am, were complaining of bad service, lax communication and officials allegedly taking bribes. Picture: Henk Kruger/African news Agency (ANA)

A woman is seen trying to keep warm next to a fire outside the Refugee Reception Centre at the Foreshore. Asylum seekers, who arrived as early as 1am, were complaining of bad service, lax communication and officials allegedly taking bribes. Picture: Henk Kruger/African news Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 4, 2018

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Hundreds of foreign nationals were overjoyed as the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office (RRO) at the Foreshore reopened following a lengthy court battle.

The Department of Home Affairs shut down the offices in July 2012 for new asylum applications.

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This was followed by court challenges by non-governmental organisation the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town.

New asylum seekers had to travel to Pretoria, Durban or Musina in order to renew their papers.

The five-year battle finally came to an end after the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that the department must “reopen and maintain a fully functional refugee reception office in or around Cape Town".

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Yesterday, a Congolese national, *Nina, 21, was waiting in line since the early hours of the morning to apply for asylum status for the first time.

“It was a difficult decision leaving my home and my family, but we all knew that I have a better opportunity for a better life in South Africa.

“I arrived this year, travelling on a truck, and while I entered in Pretoria, Cape Town is where I hope to study and build my future.”

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Nina said there was some confusion as first-time applicants and renewals were all clumped together and there were no officials helping to explain what needed to be done or even where to find a toilet.

*Hugo, also from Congo, said he has been here for 12 years and married to a South African. I am more familiar with the process, but as you can see its security is helping us with information about what to do.

“This is the problem here, it must be adjusted, there are children and pregnant women here waiting for hours,” said Hugo.

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Sonke Gender Justice policy development and advocacy specialist Marike Keller said: “South Africa has an obligation to protect asylum seekers and refugees.

“But the closing of the RRO in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth had severely affected the rights of asylum seekers and made access to the

asylum system incredibly

difficult.

“Our aim is to raise awareness of the urgent need for a fully-functioning RRO, as per court order, that caters to all, including new asylum

seekers.”

The department did not respond to questions before deadline.

*Not their real name

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