Refugees desperate as Home Affairs system fails

Woman describes how she cannot access her bank account and is on the brink of being fired

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Photo of queue at Home Affairs foreshore
A typical queue at the Home Affairs office on the foreshore. This photo is from 2015, but the situation remains the same. Photo: Tariro Washinyira

Refugees complained yesterday that Home Affairs’ Refugee Temporary Office on the foreshore has been turning them away since Monday. The refugees were attempting to renew their papers. The department’s computer system was down.

People described how they were told to come back next week on Monday or Tuesday. Refugees who were there to collect their passports or ID documents were being served.

Jane (not her real name) from Zimbabwe said her boss had threatened to fire her for being away from work for too long without bringing proof that she had been to Home Affairs.

She went to Home Affairs on 13 May to renew her refugee status, which was expiring on 14 May. She was told to return on Monday 16 May because the officials could not find her file. She kept on going to Home Affairs daily and was told to return the next day for the whole week. On 23 May, this past Monday, officials found her file but the system went down. She was told to return the following day.

Jane said, “I just gave up and could not go back the next day as instructed because my employer was threatening to dismiss me because of spending too much time at the Home Affairs offices.”

She said, “I can’t blame my employer for getting irritated. Few employers would allow their workers to take time away from work and then return with no valid document, nor proof that they there were at home Affairs. Several times I had asked the Home Affairs for a stamped note to produce at work as proof I was at their offices but they said they do not give any proof.”

Murembi said her bank account was deactivated on 14 May when the refugee status expired. She is worried her employer might not allow her to use a friend’s bank account. If the employer deposits the money into her account, she will not be able to access it.

In November 2014, there was a stampede at this Home Affairs building because of a similar problem.

Home Affairs had not responded to GroundUp’s questions by the time of publication.

TOPICS:  Immigration

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