Abuse of services among reasons for Home Affairs' closure of PE refugee centre

OCTOBER 14, 2015

Abuse of home affairs services was also the reason the Department of Home Affairs decided to close its Port Elizabeth refugee reception centre in 2011. This was revealed by Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Fatima Chohan, said on Tuesday during the Home Affairs briefing in Parliament.

Chohan said that her department had uncovered a syndicate that flew in non-South Africans into Port Elizabeth.

"It was like a tourist bus. They were literally getting off the plane, throwing their passports away and going to the refugee reception centre [in Port Elizabeth]," she said.

Many of these refugees came from southeast Asian countries.

But in August, the Constitutional Court refused to hear an appeal by the Department of Home Affairs regarding the closure of the refugee reception office. Home Affairs wanted to appeal against a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) decision that it re-opens the office. Last year, a SCA judgment found that the closure of the office had been unlawful. Read more HERE.

Cohan on Tuesday said refugee reception centres should be placed at the country's borders to prevent undocumented people from being arrested and deported while on their way to get to an office to apply for refugee or asylum papers.

Making late birth registrations tougher

Cohan also said that Home Affairs was aiming to make late birth registrations more difficult so that it can weed out chancers, .

"We are going to make screening more difficult because most [of those] who are taking up late registrations are failed asylum seekers who have not left the country. Then [they] try their luck for South African citizenship through late registration of birth applications," she said.

"I myself have seen baptism certificates from churches that do not exist."

She said that government had done its fair share to help, including making it possible to register births at hospitals, bringing to 704 527 the number of births registered within 30 days of birth during the review period of 2014/15. This was above the target of 694 000 births registered within 30 days of birth.

But 389 438 were registered from day 31 to 14 years of age, meaning some South Africans were still leaving it late.

The department had taken mobile units to remote villages, but had found the uptake to be minimal.

---additional reporting News24wire