Govt's reasons for delay in re-opening CT refugee reception centre 'a cop-out'

This week South Africans were confronted with disturbing images of the sometimes violent forced removal of refugees and asylum seekers who'd been been camping out near the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cape Town.

They want help leaving South Africa in the wake of xenophobic attacks.

At the same time, Amnesty International released a report that says the country's asylum system management is failing, exacerbating xenophobia.

RELATED: [VIDEO] Police clash with refugees outside UN offices in Cape Town

RELATED: CT reverend who has taken in hundreds of refugees calls on leadership to step up

Amnesty International SA media officer Mienke Steytler says researchers spent a year visiting refugee reception centres.

They identified a massive backlog in repeals and reviews as one of the system's main problems. The processing delays currently affect around 190,000 people.

This can really keep someone in the system for up to 19/20 years, generally around ten years, which means that person struggles to have documentation.

Mienke Steytler, Media officer - Amnesty International SA

RELATED: 'Home Affairs needs to come to the party to address refugees' concerns'

She notes that they have engaged with the government, resulting in a constructive panel discussion where the Department of Home Affairs was represented.

The recommendation was that if the system was streamlined it would cut down on the problems being experienced currently.

If people are documented and processed properly.... in order for us to see less of these xenophobic incidents, but also maybe less of what we saw this week where people were camping outside the UNHCR offices and then were forcibly removed.

Mienke Steytler, Media officer - Amnesty International SA

However, says Steytler, government was less forthcoming when questioned about the long delay in re-opening the refugee reception office in Cape Town.

They said they were not in contempt of court and that it was very complex, which to be honest we think is a cop-out.

Mienke Steytler, Media officer - Amnesty International SA

However, there is a plan to get civil society organisations together with the Department of Home Affairs to get cracking on solutions in the new year.

We will all come together and move forward. What can't continue to be happening is that civil society keeps talking and still nothing changes.

Mienke Steytler, Media officer - Amnesty International SA

Listen to the conversation on Weekend Breakfast with Africa Melane:


This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Govt's reasons for delay in re-opening CT refugee reception centre 'a cop-out'


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