Refugee Reception Offices still not fully functioning, MPs told
Source: Groundup, 05/09/2018
Port Elizabeth office not receiving new applicants, two years after
deadline set by court
More than two years after a deadline set by the courts, the Port
Elizabeth Refugee Reception Office is still not fully operational, MPs
were told last week.
Briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on Home Affairs, Department
of Home Affairs officials acknowledged that although the Cape Town
Refugee Reception Office had started slowly receiving new applicants,
the Port Elizabeth office was not yet open for newcomers.
The reopening of the offices follows two court rulings. In March 2015,
the Supreme Court of Appeals ordered Home Affairs to reopen the Port
Elizabeth Refugee Reception Centre. Home Affairs had until 1 July 2016
The same court ruled in September 2017 that Home Affairs must reopen
and maintain a fully functional refugee reception office in Cape Town
by the end of March 2018.
But neither office is fully functioning, MPs heard.
According to Home Affairs, instead of 62 people in the Port Elizabeth
office, there are only 22 officials, with two Refugee Status
Determination Officers. The estimated cost of seconding officials was
R450,000 a month and R4 million a year would be necessary to fund only
the critically important posts, Jackson Mackay from the department said.
MP Tandiwe Elizabeth Kenye (ANC) asked what the department’s
recruitment strategy was to fill in the vacancies.
Mackay said the department’s budget was a constraint. “The R7.9
billion is not enough for the department, yet it is at the centre of
the government. Treasury should capacitate the department in this
regard,” said Mackay.
Hlengiwe Octavia Mkhaliphi (EFF) asked if the department had applied
for an extension from the courts.
Mackay said the department was complying with the court orders by
reporting to the court on progress.
Acting Director-General Thulani Mavuso said the Port Elizabeth office
should be ready to receive new applicants by the end of October 2018.
He said furniture and information technology were being installed.
To operate at full capacity the office had to rely on secondment from
the Desmond Tutu and Musina offices which received smaller volumes.
In Cape Town, the staff establishment was up to date with one or two
more officials needed. Five computers had been installed for
processing newcomers at the old building. The Department of Public
Works was still looking for permanent offices for the centre, Mackay said.