An open letter to the Minister of Home Affairs

                                                                                                            Cape Town, 31 March 2021

DR. AARON MOTSOALEDI

THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS

HALLMARK BUILDING

230 JOHANNES RAMOKHOASE

PRETORIA

By email: Minister@dha.gov.za

Re: Request for a Meeting with Honourable Minister of the Department of Home Affairs

Dear Honourable Minister,

Greetings from Africa Unite!

First of All, we would like to congratulate the Department of Home Affairs for the landmark agreement recently signed with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to eliminate the backlog in the asylum seekers system.  We believe that this will change the lives of many deserving asylum seekers who have waited in limbo for so long to have the proper papers.

In the light of the ongoing closure of the Refugee Reception Offices (RROs), we are sending this communication to share some of the challenges facing the refugee communities due to this decision. 

It has been a whole year since the RROs were closed. In your Statement dated 30 September 2020, you confirmed that the refugee documents that expired during the lockdown would be deemed valid until 31 January 2021; this was further extended to 31 March 2021. Last week it was extended again to June 2021 with an option to renew online. Although these gazetted regulations were fair but, on the ground, their implementation had serious challenges that affected the lives of many refugees and asylums seekers to access various services by both public and private sectors.

To name just a few:

  • Refugees’ learners were denied registration to schools as they were being asked to provide valid documents
  • Refugees who wanted to apply for a driving licence were penalised as well as those whose PDP expired
  • Some refugees’ bank accounts were frozen by banks
  • Many Refugees who lost their jobs during this period of Covid 19 were denied applying for their UIF
  • Many refugees could not renew their travel documents, including long-distance truck drivers
  • Many missed opportunities to apply for studies and bursaries
  • We cannot forget to mention many refugees and asylum seekers who lost their jobs because of expired papers.

The above list is just a few cases due to the closure of the refugee receptions. When you first announced about closing the offices in April 2020, we all understood and agreed with you, but closing the office the whole year despite that the country has moved to Level 1 has become unbearable for vulnerable groups such as refugees and asylum seekers.

On another note, we just recently learnt that you have set up a Ministerial task team to review some permits that the Department issued from 2004. Though we understand the need to fight corruption we are so worried that this measure is coming to add more to the already existing backlog.

Dear Honourable Minister,

Looking at the implications and agency of the issues highlighted above, as a Youth Empowerment and Human Rights Organisation, we would like to request an urgent meeting with the Honourable Minister.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Respectfully Yours

———————————————

Lyle R Breda (Mr)

Human rights Project Development Officer

IDASA Building

6 Spin Street

Cape Town, 8001

Tel: 021 4616551/ 083 9588133

Email:  info@africaunite.org.za

CC:

  • Mr Livhuwani Tommy Makhode, DHA Director-General
  • Hon. Adv Bongani Thomas Bongo, Chairperson of Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs
  • Commissioner Angie Makwetla, The Commissioner responsible for the rights of Children and Migrants, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)
  • UN Agencies in charge of Migrants & Refugees (UNHCR; IOM; ILO)
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