96% of refugee applications are refused, say lawyers
Source: Groundup, 08/02/2018
Home Affairs is “institutionally xenophobic”, Human Rights Commission
About 96% of refugee applications are rejected according to Lawyers
for Human Rights, which has described the Department of Home Affairs
as “institutionally xenophobic”.
Advocates from LHR Kayan Leung and Sharon Ekambaram were addressing a
SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearing in Johannesburg on
Wednesday. Leung told the panel that refugee reception offices were
often corrupt, and Home Affairs was uncooperative in helping asylum
seekers get refugee statuses.
She said the refugee office in Messina had approved only two out
10,043 applications for refugee status in 2013. In 2014, she said
three out of 14,586 had been approved. No applications were approved
“Two years back, we have a 96% rejection rate overall in this
country,” said Ekambaram.
The two-day hearing was set up by the SAHRC to understand the causes
and effects of xenophobia on South Africans and immigrants.
Submissions were made by LHR, the Foundation for Human Rights,
African Diaspora Forum, Hate Crimes Working Group, Southern Africa
Litigation Centre, as well as the Department of Education.
Leung said immigrants were often denied access to basic health care,
education and public services based on the public servant’s prejudice
against immigrants. She made an example of a case where LHR was
assisting an unaccompanied foreign minor. LHR took the minor to a
consultation with a social worker at the Department of Social
“The minor came out of the consultation visibly disturbed. It turns
out that the social worker lashed out at him saying that he was lying
about his age, lying that he didn’t have family here and saying he
was just here to abuse South Africa’s services and resources,” she
Leung said there was also corruption at all stages of the application
process. She said LHR had conducted a survey which showed that one
third of the participants experienced corruption at the refugee
Commissioner Angie Makwetla, one of the panel members, asked the LHR
what steps the State and SAHRC should take to curb corruption at the
“There is always a call for evidence. We have been working with the
Hawks to find a way to get the evidence that is needed… because when
we report it to the Department, there is always denial. There needs
to be an oversight and monitoring system,” answered Ekambaram.
Laura Freeman, another panel member, asked the LHR to expand on their
efforts to work with Home Affairs and whether they have been
successful or not.
Leung said LHR had worked well with Home Affairs for years because
many of the public servants were former activists. But more recently,
she said, the LHR had received either no responses or inadequate
responses from Home Affairs, which often forced it to take legal
“As an attorney, I would rather just resolve the issue over the phone
or via email and not go to litigation with every case. It’s a drain
on state resources and it’s a waste of time because people only see
results after a year or so,” Leung said in her closing statement.
Panel member Commissioner Chris Nissen thanked LHR for its submission
and promised to take its suggestions into consideration