Malusi Gigaba. Picture: REUTERS
Malusi Gigaba. Picture: REUTERS

The DA is to request that Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba be summoned to Parliament to explain why the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth refugee reception offices have not been re-opened.

On Tuesday, the DA conducted an oversight visit to the Department of Home Affairs Cape Town office on the Foreshore. This office only processes asylum-seeker permit renewals and does not take new applications because the Cape Town refugee reception office was closed in 2012.

Some asylum seekers, who spoke with the DA, shared their frustrations with the process as well as the conditions at the current premises‚ which they said posed a health hazard to both asylum seekers and staff.

Refugee reception offices are meant to receive and process new applications from people who are seeking asylum in SA. They also renew permits while the applicants await decisions on their permanent status.

In September last year‚ the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) found that the decision to close the Cape Town office was irrational and it reviewed and set aside the decision. The department’s appeal to the Constitutional Court was dismissed in December last year.

The SCA ordered that the department re-open the Cape Town office by March 31 2018, but this has not happened. The department indicated in April that it had no intention of disregarding the judicial directive and will respect the judgment.

"In this regard‚ we have commenced with plans to comply with the order and have prioritised the funding and filing of key posts to get the centre operational‚" the department said on April 17.

However‚ the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town and the Somali Association of SA said this statement by the department was misleading‚ as the refugee reception centre has remained closed to new applicants since July 1 2012.

Also‚ the department has failed to comply with another 2015 order to re-open the Port Elizabeth refugee reception office. In defending its decisions to close the Port Elizabeth office in 2011 and the Cape Town office a year later‚ the department argued that the most operationally strategic and convenient places to locate refugee reception offices were points of entry utilised by those entering the country.

It said refugees did not use Port Elizabeth or Cape Town as their ports of entry.

The DA said it would write to the chairman of the home affairs portfolio committee‚ Lemias Mashile‚ to request that Gigaba be summoned to account for why these reception centres had not been re-opened.

DA shadow minister of home affairs Haniff Hoosen said, "Clearly‚ the failure by Minister Gigaba to obey the courts is compromising the ability of the department to ensure asylum applications are processed and finalised efficiently."