UCT's Refugee Rights Unit has called on the Department of Home Affairs to re-open its Refugee Reception Offices for first-time asylum applications. File picture: Independent Media

Cape Town - The University of Cape Town’s Refugee Rights Unit has called on the Department of Home Affairs to re-open its Refugee Reception Offices for first-time asylum applications. 

The unit appeared before Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs, where it made a submission on the proposed amendments to the Immigration Bill.

Attorney at the Refugee Rights Unit at the University of Cape Town Popo Mfubu said the re-opening of the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office (CTRRO) for new asylum applications, would assist with the backlog of asylum applications. 

“The things we want changed with the system include opening of refugee offices, we don’t want undocumented people. People also don’t want to undocumented, it is not enjoyable to be detained,” he added. 

Home Affairs disregarded a court order last year, instructing it to re-open its refugee reception office in Cape Town by 31 March 2018. 

The country has five Refugee Reception Offices, however, the department suspended the services to first-time applicants in two of these offices. 

The office building is open for renewal permits for asylum seekers who registered at the Cape Town office prior to its closure in June 2012.

Mfubu charged that the suspension of services of the offices in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth have added pressure on the remaining offices that still assist first applicant asylum seekers. 

He said officials who assist refugees must also apply legislation in the correct manner to ensure that the backlog for undocumented immigrants is resolved.

“We are currently doing a case now where we are challenging the manner in which the Cape Town refugee office documents dependents of refugees. There are many undocumented children because Home Affairs is just not joining them to their parent’s files. They have created an administrative barrier for them to be able to make those kind of applications. 

“Our refugee system is amazing, the framework is amazing. It is just the application that is a problem,” said Mfubu. 

The portfolio committee chairperson Hlomane  Chauke said he was concerned there was “no relationship between the organisation and Home Affairs”. He said the committee would discuss the matters raised by the organisation with the department. 

Political Bureau