MPs reveal 'chaotic' conditions at refugee office

The Home Affairs Department’s refugee office in Cape Town was a “chaotic” place at which refugees were treated like animals, a parliamentary committee said on Wednesday.

The MPs, on an unannounced visit to the refugee offices on the Foreshore, also discovered that refugees were being illegally detained by officials.

Members of the home affairs’ portfolio committee rescued a refugee who had been locked into a cage inside a filthy toilet cubicle.

At the facility there was “inhumane treatment of refugees by the department’s officials”, the committee’s chairperson Patrick Chauke said.

He said asylum seekers’ applications were strewn all over the office.

The committee also said that there was not a single home affairs official attending to the scores of refugees who were in the office.

The offices had been virtually taken over by what Chauke described as “syndicates”, who claimed to be members of NGOs.

It was difficult to distinguish between a genuine official and members of the “syndicates”, as the latter had full access to applications forms, computers and other equipment in the office.

“This is a very chaotic situation and refugees are treated like animals,” Chauke said.

He said senior officials of the department would be hauled before the committee to explain the mess at the office.

When asked why there were no officials attending to refugees, Nomsa Mzamane, the manager, said the two officials who were supposed to be assisting refugees ran away when they heard MPs were in the office.

She said the department’s national office had brought in two officials from head office to assist at the Cape Town office.

The committee’s visit was prompted by Monday’s service delivery demonstration by Zimbabwean refugees outside the office. - Sapa



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