SOUTH AFRICA POLITICS: Cape Town Refugee Reception Office Must be Opened: Supreme Court Ruling Orders

Politicoscope
By Politicoscope October 3, 2017 11:36

Related Coverage You May Like


Current Political Article Highlights


The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) noted that urban areas such as Cape Town attract large numbers of asylum seekers because of better access to basic services and work opportunities. The court found that the DG should have taken into account the high number of asylum seekers in Cape Town and the high level of demand for a refugee reception office in Cape Town. His failure to do so meant that his decision was irrational, the court said.

The Court also required the DG to make frequent reports on the steps being taken to reopen the office to ensure that the Department complies with its order.

Continue below with the full current political topic.

SOUTH AFRICA POLITICS: Cape Town Refugee Reception Office Must be Opened: Supreme Court Ruling Orders

The ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal that the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office must be opened is a victory for asylum seekers. The court found that the director-general of the Department of Home Affairs had used his power unlawfully.

On 29 September, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) found the decision of the director-general of the Department of Home Affairs to close the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office to be unlawful and set the decision aside; overturning a High Court decision. The SCA ordered the Department of Home Affairs to reopen the office within six months.

This is the second time that the closure of the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office has come before the Supreme Court of Appeal. The director-general (DG) first decided to close the office in 2012; however, the decision was set aside by the High Court and an order given that the office must be re-opened.

On appeal, the SCA confirmed the setting aside of the decision. The SCA found that the DG had failed to comply with procedural requirements in making the decision; specifically, he had failed to consult organisations working with asylum seekers. But the SCA nevertheless overturned the order requiring the re-opening of the office and instead referred the matter back to the DG for a decision on its future.

The DG consulted organisations working with asylum seekers before once again taking the decision to close the office. This decision has been widely opposed because of its impact on asylum seekers living in Cape Town who are forced to travel to offices in Masina, Pretoria or Durban.

In its findings last week, the SCA noted that asylum seekers suffer significant prejudice and are not able to exercise their rights under the Refugees Act 130 of 1998 if the refugee reception offices are located far away from the areas in which they live and work. Asylum seekers must report to the refugee reception office several times throughout the lengthy application procedure.

Requiring them to travel to distant offices several times places a burden on a vulnerable group, possibly preventing them from obtaining or renewing the permits which allow them to be in South Africa and exposing them to arrest and detention.

Issues were also raised by the SCA about the ability of the offices in Masina, Pretoria and Durban to handle the increased workload which would result from the closure of the Cape Town office and the prejudice faced by applicants as a result of backlogs.

The SCA noted that urban areas such as Cape Town attract large numbers of asylum seekers because of better access to basic services and work opportunities. The court found that the DG should have taken into account the high number of asylum seekers in Cape Town and the high level of demand for a refugee reception office in Cape Town. His failure to do so meant that his decision was irrational, the court said.

The SCA found that the DG does have the power to close a refugee reception office in terms of the Refugees Act, but that he must exercise this power lawfully. The Act only empowers the DG to close a refugee reception office if the DG determines that the office is no longer necessary for the purposes of the Act. His failure to consider whether the office was necessary for the purposes of the Act meant that he had failed to comply with the Act.

The SCA also found that the DG had used his power for an ulterior purpose – a purpose other than the one for which the power was given. The DG stated that he closed the office to enable the government to exercise more control over the asylum application process. He wanted to restrict access to refugee reception offices in urban areas to prevent abuse of the process by people who are not genuinely in need of asylum. The SCA found that this was not a lawful use of the DG’s power.

The SCA rejected the DG’s submission that there are no suitable premises for a refugee reception office in Cape Town. The court said that an office could be located a short distance outside Cape Town, provided it could easily be reached by public transport, or could be located in satellite offices.

Therefore, the SCA found that the decision was unlawful and set it aside. This time, the SCA ordered the Department of Home Affairs to reopen and maintain a fully functioning Cape Town Refugee Reception Office

The SCA found that an order requiring the reopening of the office was necessary because asylum seekers had already been prejudiced for more than five years by the absence of an office in Cape Town; the decision of the DG was flawed in substance as opposed to procedurally flawed as in the first case and the Court considered it likely that an order referring the matter back to the DG for a reconsideration of the decision would be ignored.

The Court also required the DG to make frequent reports on the steps being taken to reopen the office to ensure that the Department complies with its order.

The decision is a victory for asylum seekers and a harsh criticism of attempts by the Department of Home Affairs to exclude asylum seekers from urban areas and to limit their ability to exercise their rights under the law.

– All Africa


Up Next on Politicoscope

Share this Article: "SOUTH AFRICA POLITICS: Cape Town Refugee Reception Office Must be Opened: Supreme Court Ruling Orders"
Since You’re Here, We Would Like to ask You for Help
There are more readers worldwide reading the Politicoscope daily news content than ever before. Unlike many other news media organisations that charge their readers subscription fees for the same daily news content and features we offer you for free, we do not charge all our readers to pay any fee. We depend on online advertising to generate the revenues to fund all these great news content and exclusive features provided to you for free. Currently, advertising revenues are quickly falling which is affecting our ability to offer you free online news content.
If everyone who reads our news content, likes it and helps to support it, we can have future guarantee to offer you with the best daily news content and other amazing features, all for free.
"I visit Politicoscope everyday to read my daily news in world politics. I'm glad it's all for free. On my part, I'm happy to donate monthly so as to continue enjoying these free content because it's actually a small amount from me compared to paid subscriptions by other news organisations. I want to help Politicoscope grow more so that I and other readers can continue to have access to free and exclusive daily online news." - Denise H., from LA, USA.
Help keep Politicoscope alive and grow stronger for you.

Donate Online Today


Politicoscope
By Politicoscope October 3, 2017 11:36

You May Also Like


Since You’re Here, We Would Like to ask You for Help

There are more readers worldwide reading the Politicoscope daily news content than ever before. Unlike many other news media organisations that charge their readers subscription fees for the same daily news content and features we offer you for free, we do not charge all our readers to pay any fee. We depend on online advertising to generate the revenues to fund all these great news content and exclusive features provided to you for free. Currently, advertising revenues are quickly falling which is affecting our ability to offer you free online news content.
If everyone who reads our news content, likes it and helps to support it, we can have future guarantee to offer you with the best daily news content and other amazing features, all for free.
"I visit Politicoscope everyday to read my daily news in world politics. I'm glad it's all for free. On my part, I'm happy to donate monthly so as to continue enjoying these free content because it's actually a small amount from me compared to paid subscriptions by other news organisations. I want to help Politicoscope grow more so that I and other readers can continue to have access to free and exclusive daily online news." - Denise H., from LA, USA.
Help keep Politicoscope alive and grow stronger for you.

What's on Your Mind?