Scalabrini Centre, Black Sash and PASSOP are extremely concerned about the recent news of potential closure of the Maitland Refugee Reception Office due to a notice of lease termination received on 30 April 2012.
On a meeting on the 7th May held in Barrack Street, Cape Town between the Home Affairs Management and civil society organisations, senior officials of the Department stated that a 30 day notice was given to Department of Home Affairs Maitland Refugee Reception office by one of the landlords, announcing the cessation of the current lease agreement by May 31, 2012.
In May 2010 a decision of the South African High Court ruled in favor of the eviction of the Maitland Reception Office as a consequence of the claims raised from neighboring business that the office constitutes a public nuisance.
We are shocked that in two years the Department of Home Affairs has not been able to provide a solution to the eviction order by either instituting the necessary legal proceedings for appeal or identifying an alternative site able to suit the requirements ordered by the court. It is a disgrace that already traumatized people should be treated with such disregard. To close an office suddenly, and without proper notice or consultation, shows a complete lack of compassion and respect for the basic rights of our most vulnerable members of society.
We therefore request the Department of Home Affairs to urgently explore all the viable legal options in order to guarantee the continuation of the services provided by the Maitland Refugee Office. A sudden closure of the Cape Town Refugee Reception Centre would have enormous and unpredictable repercussions on those refugees and asylum seekers who access the office on a daily basis.
Scalabrini, Black Sash and PASSOP are also concerned that the closure of the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office will become part of the explicit strategy pursued by the Department of Home Affairs of relocating all the present Reception Offices near the borders as clearly indicated in the 2012-2015 Home Affairs Strategic Plan.
“We find it very worrying that the Department is systematically trying to close refugee reception offices without putting any infrastructure in place to deal with new or existing applicants living in and dependent on the support available in metropolitan areas. Furthermore we would also like to remind the DHA that the closures of both the Crown Mines RRO and the PE RRO were successfully challenged and that both those closures were held to be unlawful and unconstitutional” says Nyembezi.
Legal Resource Centre has expressed their willingness to provide assistance in negotiating with the landlord and opposing the eviction of the Reception Office.
An immediate solution needs to be found and we call upon the DHA to adhere to their legal obligations to properly document refugees and asylum seekers. The state has a moral and legal duty to uphold the Constitutional right of everyone, including refugees, to administrative justice.
For more information and comments, please contact:
- Miranda Madikane, Scalabrini Centre (021 465 64 33)
- Braam Hanekom, PASSOP (084 319 1764)
- Nyembezi Nkosikhulule, Black Sash (082 429 4719)