Answer to a question from a reader

My refugee documents have expired and I've been given 14 days to leave the country. What can I do?

The short answer

Here's where you can go for legal advice

The whole question

Early this year  I went to Home Affairs to renew my asylum paper knowing it had expired. They gave a letter to go and pay a fine of R1,000 at the police station and when I went back to Home Affairs they arrested me for a few hours and then gave me 14 days to go back home.  What should I do to fix this?


The long answer

The Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs is the body which reviews decisions by Home Affairs to deny refugee status to a person applying for it. Regulation 25 (1) says that the Standing Committee must automatically review rejection of refugee status by Home Affairs if Home Affairs says their decision was based on the application being “manifestly unfounded, fraudulent or abusive”. This is meant to ensure that people are not wrongly turned away.    

Before your refugee status can be withdrawn, the Standing Committee must give you a written notice explaining that it intends to withdraw your refugee status and the reasons for it. It also has to give you notice that you have the right to make a written submission to the Standing Committee within 30 days of the notice. If you don’t respond within the 30 days or if they are not persuaded by your letter, they can withdraw your refugee status. They can also ask you to attend a meeting with them and can investigate further.

About the fine of R1,000; Home Affairs says it has the right to issue fines, as well as deport a person. It seems that before 2014, people who overstayed could pay a fine and not be deported, but since then Home Affairs can deport someone for 12 months if they have overstayed for up to 30 days, and for 5 years if they have overstayed longer than 30 days.

For legal advice, you can contact Lawyers for Human Rights (Refugee and Migrants Rights Programme) at


Telephone number: 

 (011) 339 1960

Fax number: 

 (011) 339 2665

Physical address: 

4th Floor Heerengracht Building,

87 De Korte Street corner Melle Street,


Answered on July 3, 2019, 10:13 a.m.

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