Lifting the curtain on corruption in the refugee and asylum-seeking process

Almost a third of the people who have to deal with Home Affairs Refugee Reception Offices (RROs) in South Africa have been asked for bribes.

This is according to a recent report by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and the African Centre for Migration and Society.

CapeTalk and 702 presenter Redi Tlhabi spoke with National Director at LHR's Jacob van Garderen.

Understanding refugee and asylum-seeking status and how it is compromised by corruption

Van Garderen says it is important to distinguish refugees and asylum-seekers as individuals who are fleeing from political persecution and insecurity from their countries of origin.

The South African Refugee Act places an obligation to recognise those foreign nationals that are fleeing insecurity and to grant them refugee status that will allow them to remain in the country and integrate into society - to enjoy South Africa's constitutional rights.

Jacob van Garderen, National Director at Lawyers for Human Rights

According to Van Garderen, the commitment by South African government to provide legal protection to refugees and asylum-seekers is compromised by corrupt practices and officials at the various RROs across the country.

Home Affairs responds

Spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs Mayihlome Tshwete says that the department has taken anti-corruption measures to counter bribery in the RROs, including a forthcoming contact and complaints centre.

According to Tshwete, recommendations from reports by the LHR need to be unpacked constructively and engaged with beyond 'pointing fingers'.

I think there is no disagreement about the problem of corruption. We should move away from an antagonistic relationship between Home Affairs and any NGO trying to serve these constituencies. We need constructive discussions.

Mayihlome Tshwete, Department of Home Affairs spokesperson

Some of the findings:

The LHR report details the extent of corruption in the refugee and asylum-seeking process and concludes that corruption in this area is highly concerning.

The corruption detailed in the report is based on a survey administered to 928 asylum-seekers and refugees while they were exiting or waiting to enter one of the country’s five RROs.

  • Overall almost one-third of respondents experienced corruption at an RRO.

  • The results varied but the Marabastad RRO in Pretoria showed the highest levels of corruption.

  • It was revealed that significant levels of corruption involving multiple actors, occurs at all stages of the asylum process, and continues even after an individual had obtained refugee status.

Listen to the full conversation from The Redi Tlhabi Show:

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