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SAHRC notes and commends the Western Cape High Court judgment declaring closure of Cape Town Refugee Reception Office unlawful.

19 March 2013

The South African Human Rights Commission notes and commends the judgment delivered on  19th March 2013, by the Western Cape High Court Judge Owen Rogers in which he ruled in favour of the Scalabrini Centre, Cape Town & 8 Others by declaring the closure of the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office unlawful.

The Court has now ordered the Centre to be opened by 1st July 2013.

The SAHRC has been receiving complaints from asylum seekers on this issue and in September 2012 was approached by eighty asylum seekers, including children, seeking relief from actions of Department of Home Affairs.

The complainants alleged, among others, that they are the new applicants who have unsuccessfully been attempting to legalise their status with the Department of Home Affairs, Cape Town; that they have been physically thrown out of the Reception Centre by officials and security officers stationed there; and that the Department officials had advised the applicants to travel to the other provinces in order to be processed.  

The Commission has also received complaints from persons who are experiencing challenges in getting renewals and getting applications for family members joined.

SAHRC welcomes the approach of the Court in considering the impact of the decision on asylum seekers, and the great burden and hardship the resultant action causes to asylum seekers who will have to travel great distances to attend to their applications and renewals, and the resultant administrative requirements of the process, and the impact thereof on their family life and dependents, cost and job security( para110).

The SAHRC also wishes to highlight its concern regarding the failure of the Department of Home Affairs to comply with the order of Davis J (as noted by the Judge in para 120) and calls for an urgent intervention by the Minister to ensure compliance with legal processes and legislation.

The SAHRC will also engage with the Minister of Home Affairs regarding the treatment of asylum seekers and the need to ensure that the Department of Home Affairs acts within the framework of our Constitution and Bill of Rights when dealing with persons seeking asylum in South Africa.



Isaac Mangena
South African Human Rights Commission
Head: Communications
2771884 8273

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