REFUGEES: An immigration officer goes through documents of illegal migrants at Lindela in this file picture from 2007. Picture: ANTONY KAMINJU
REFUGEES: An immigration officer goes through documents of illegal migrants at Lindela in this file picture from 2007. Picture: ANTONY KAMINJU

A SUPREME Court of Appeal order that it the Port Elizabeth refugee reception office be reopened by July 1 is incorrect and an unwarranted intrusion into the executive domain, says the Department of Home Affairs.

The department has applied to the Constitutional Court to set aside the court’s order made on March 25.

Refugee reception offices provide services to those who want to apply for asylum in SA.

At the beginning of 2011 there were six such offices, in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Musina and Port Elizabeth. Since then, the department has closed the Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town offices, a move which has been challenged in various courts.

The Somali Association of SA obtained a court order from the High Court in Grahamstown in 2013, declaring that the decision in 2012 by home affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni to close the Port Elizabeth office was unlawful. The court directed him to ensure that a refugee reception office in Port Elizabeth was open and fully functional by October 1 2013.

The department appealed against Judge Willem Eksteen’s ruling in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Mr Apleni told the appeal court the most operationally strategic and convenient places to locate refugee reception offices were points of entry utilised by those entering SA. Port Elizabeth did not qualify.

Records showed those applying for asylum in Port Elizabeth hailed from China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia and Ethiopia and none of them used the city as a port of entry, he said.

In its judgment in March, Judge Visvanathan Ponnan said this case concerned the lawfulness of a decision by Mr Apleni to "disestablish" an office which had been located in Port Elizabeth since 2000.

The department’s attorney, Leonie Hart said the Refugees Act did not "require the director-general to locate these (offices) in any specific place". In 2010, only 3% of new applications were processed at the Port Elizabeth office.

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