Home affairs tells asylum-seeking married couple to remarry

| Tariro Washinyira
Christine Ntumba with her older child holds up her DRC marriage certificate. Photo by Tariro Washinyira.

Christine Ntumba is an asylum seeker from the DRC. And she’s in a desperate situation. Her baby, Aradi, is sick and cannot get the medical attention he needs because Christine cannot obtain vital documents because of bureaucratic hurdles.

Aradi has a disability and was born prematurely on 9 October 2014. He went for surgery on his bowels at Groote Schuur hospital on 15 October. But he needs a follow-up operation on his esophagus which Christine is struggling to schedule because of their lack of asylum documents.

Christine arrived in Muizenberg, Cape Town from the DRC in December 2012. By this time, amidst controversy and court cases, the Department of Home Affairs Refugee Reception Office in Cape Town had stopped issuing asylum documents to new applicants. Consequently Christine has been unable to get asylum documents. Asylum applications can now only be done in Pretoria, Durban and Musina.

Christine came to Cape Town to be with her husband who has been a refugee in Cape Town since 2006. According to Christine’s marriage certificate (which GroundUp has seen) she and her husband Kasanji Sibu Celestine got married in Kinshasa in 2012. Normally, asylum is granted to the spouses of people who have already received refugee status. Married couples are joined, on the same file, by Home Affairs. It should be a relatively quick and easy matter for a spouse of someone with refugee status to be joined. However, this has not happened in Christine’s case.

Instead, In May the Cape Town Home Affairs office told Christine and her husband that she needs to visit one of the up-country offices to get asylum by applying for what is known as a section 22 permit, and that when she got asylum she would have to remarry her husband. Only then would the department consider them to be on the same file.

A lawyer with a public interest law organisation told GroundUp, “This is bizarre”, especially if the husband identified his wife in his application for asylum when he arrived here, which apparently he did. Then Christine could be joined on his status here without having to get a section 22 permit.

Now to make matters even more difficult for Christine, her husband has disappeared in the last two weeks. Christine believes he has run away.

Christine says, “Before my husband disappeared from me I would attend my baby’s appointments using his documents. He used to work at Pick ‘n Pay as a cleaner and pay rent and buy food for me and the family. I do not have any relatives here in Cape Town. I only know few people from church. People we have been renting a room from said I can only stay until 31 October since I do not have money to pay for the room. I am living from handouts from the landlord.”

She continues, “When [my] baby was born he refused breast milk. I need money to buy formula, porridge and baby stuff for him. I also need money to go to Musina or Durban to apply for asylum. My sick baby will never be attended to unless I am documented. I have a matric certificate, an asylum paper would enable me to study and work.”

Home Affairs has not responded to requests for comment.

TOPICS:  Immigration

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