Asylum seekers fear arrest as delays mount

People have been struggling to renew their permits at Home Affairs in Musina since 2020

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Asylum seekers, mostly from Burundi, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been battling to renew their permits at Musina Refugee Reception Centre in Limpopo since 2020. Photo: Bernard Chiguvare

Asylum seekers, mostly from Burundi, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), say they have been battling to renew their permits at Musina Refugee Reception Centre in Limpopo. They are scared to approach the office now, fearing that it could get them arrested or deported.

GroundUp is aware of over 150 people affected by this.

Most of the people we interviewed travelled through the Beitbridge border post. During the hard lockdown in 2020, Messina Home Based Care, a local non-profit organisation, created a database of asylum seekers being housed at the Musina Showground. The organisation then discovered that most of the asylum seekers were waiting for appointment dates while other asylum documents were nearing expiration.

A year later, Home Affairs advised asylum seekers and refugees whose permits had expired to apply online. However, most people struggled with the online system.

Kaskile [not his real name] is from Burundi and has lived in South Africa since 2011. He told GroundUp that prior to lockdown in 2020, he could easily renew his documents. “I have tried several times to apply for an extension, but I don’t get any response from Home Affairs. This makes our living in South Africa very difficult.”

Kaskile said he has also risked going to the Refugee Reception Centre in person but was told to come back another day. “Most of us have now stopped going there because we were told we are going to be arrested and get deported,” he said. Kaskile runs a hair salon in Musina and cannot afford a lawyer to take on his case.

Demunga [not his real name] is from the DRC and has been in the country since January 2020. He applied for an asylum permit but could not collect his documents due to lockdown.

He lived in Musina for eight months before relocating to Cape Town, along with 20 other people. “We are afraid the police may arrest us. Most of us have tried changing email addresses because we thought our current emails may not be working, but still we get no response,” said Demunga.

According to Tapiwa Zvauya from Messina Home Based Care, most asylum seekers have moved in search of more job opportunities. “Home Affairs should speed up processing asylum papers. Further delays with processing of asylum documents might encourage corruption with some DHA officials,” said Zvauya.

We emailed questions to Home Affairs spokespersons David Hlabane and Siyabulela Qoza on 13 February who also did not respond to our subsequent calls and WhatsApp messages.

TOPICS:  Home Affairs Immigration

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

Many immigrants in South Africa find it difficult to apply for asylum permits. Children in South Africa have started writing exams and schools are in demand of asylum or IDs, especially grade 12 that are really in need of writing their NSC. If children do not provide those documents they would not write their exams, depriving them of the right to an education. As South Africa we want to build a future and employment for our children but how are we going to do that if we deprive our fellow Africans of their human right to identity? I would like to plead with Home Affairs to help the immigrants living in South Africa to not live in fear.

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