Home Affairs loses appeal over closure of Port Elizabeth refugee office

AUGUST 7, 2015

The Constitutional Court on Thursday refused to hear an appeal by the Department of Home Affairs regarding the closure of its refugee reception office in Port Elizabeth.

Home Affairs wanted to appeal against a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) decision that it re-opens the Port Elizabeth Refugee Reception Office. Last year, a SCA judgment found that the closure of the office had been unlawful. 

court order brought by the Somali Association of South Africa in the Grahamstown High Court in 2013, had also found that the closing of the office in 2012 by then Department of Home Affairs Director-General, Mkuseli Apleni, to be unlawful despite Port Elizabeth accounting for a small percentage of asylum seekers.

In his response to the court then, Apleni stated that the refugee offices were usually located at points of entry but that the Port Elizabeth branch, one of only six in the country before its closing, was not such a point as none of the city’s Chinese, Pakistani, Somali, Bangladeshi or Ethiopian refugees used it as a way to enter the country.

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) have welcomed the move by the Constitutional Court to dismiss the appeal with costs. 

LHR says this means that asylum seekers and refugees in and around PE will no longer have to travel long distances for services.

--additional reporting SABC