The short answer
You can email the RRO where you got your most recent extension to make an appointment or try to renew it online.
The long answer
As you know, the Refugee Reception Offices (RROs) of Home Affairs were all closed during the pandemic in 2020 and Home Affairs had to grant a blanket extension of the permits until 31 December 2021, which was later extended to 30 April 2022. Home Affairs set up an online renewal system in April 2021, but many asylum seekers found great difficulty in using this system. Home Affairs was urged to fix it, but it is not clear how well this system is working yet.
Now, since 4 May 2022, Home Affairs says that asylum seekers can make appointments to renew their permits at the RRO where they got their latest permit. The refugee offices in Musina, Pretoria, Durban and Gqeberha are open. The Cape Town refugee office has been closed for ten years, and Home Affairs was ordered by the courts to open it. Home Affairs is now cooperating with the court order and is fixing up a building in Maitland. It is supposed to be open in early 2023, but is not yet open, as far as I can see.
Tariro Washinyira in an April 2022 article for GroundUp quoted Home Affairs as saying:
“In view of the termination of the national state of disaster, the department is finalising plans to allow ‘walk-ins’. Once the plan is finalised, the refugee community will be informed through various mechanisms such as public notices and stakeholder engagements on how services can be accessed.”
But in the same article, Sharon Ekambaram of Lawyers for Human Rights expressed worry about how Home Affairs would communicate to asylum seekers and refugees.
So, although Home Affairs says it will allow "walk-ins" to the RROs, it may be safer to make an appointment for now. Home Affairs says that it is better to make an appointment to avoid long queues.
You can make an appointment by emailing the RRO where you got your most recent extension and asking for an appointment.
You can also email the RRO to extend your permit online. They will send you an email back explaining the process and giving you the form that you need to fill out and telling you what other documents you need to bring.
The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town (which is an NGO that assists asylum seekers and refugees) says that when you write the email to Home Affairs, you must send this from your own personal email address. They say you should send one separate email for each person documented in your asylum file – for example, spouses or children. (Each of these emails can be sent from your own personal email address.) In the email, you must write your full name (as it appears on your asylum document) and file number. In the subject line of the email, you need to write your file number as it appears on your document.
They advise that you can print the form and fill it out by hand, then scan and upload it as an attachment. They say that you should be able to do this at an internet cafe if you are not able to do it at home.
These are the RRO email addresses:
Cape Town: CTRRC.Extension22@dha.gov.za
Finally, there is some good news for asylum seekers about a Western Cape High Court case brought by the Scalabrini Centre against Home Affairs. Tania Broughton reported on this in a GroundUp article on 6 February 2023. Judge Patricia Goliath found sections of the Refugees Act that state that asylum seekers who do not review their visas within one month of the expiry of the visa will be considered to have abandoned their applications and may be deported to be unconstitutional. This was because asylum seekers or refugees could be deported to countries where their lives might well be in danger. This was against international law, which South Africa has also signed up to, which forbids a country to send asylum seekers back to a country where their lives were likely to be in danger. This is called the "non-refoulement" principle. This judgment must still be confirmed by the Constitutional Court, but for the present, it is the law. Judge Goliath said that South Africa was obliged to establish systems and allocate resources "to ensure the international human rights law protection of refugees and asylum seekers".
If you run into difficulties with Home Affairs officials who, for example, may not know about this court case, you could contact one of the following organisations for assistance:
The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town
Tel: 021 465 6433
Musina 015 534 2203
Durban: 031 301 0531
Pretoria: 012 320 2943
Johannesburg: 011 339 1960
Cape Town: 021 424 8561
Johannesburg: 011 836 9831
Cape Town: 021 481 3000.
Wishing you the best,
Answered on March 2, 2023, 11:30 a.m.
Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.