Human rights organisations told The Zimbabwean last month that they had unravelled gross human rights abuses and inhuman treatment of asylum seekers, most of them Zimbabweans, at the Pretoria centre.
A three-member team of civil rights leaders from Peace Action, Solidarity Peace Trust, and the Zimbabwe Youth Wing visited the centre on a fact finding mission. This followed various allegations of corruption and physical abuse by Home Affairs officials receiving and processing applications and prepared a report detailing the abuses.
Among the report’s findings, also confirmed by Lawyers for Human Rights, were scenes of whip-wielding crowd controllers beating up asylum seekers, favouritism and bribery allegations.
South Africa’s Home Affairs Department spokesperson, Ronnie Mamoepa, expressed ignorance about the alleged abuses this week, telling The Zimbabwean that his office had not been officially alerted about the allegations contained in the report.
“Should the Department be officially informed of the results of the mentioned investigation, an (internal) investigation will be conducted,” said Mamoepa.“The incidents to which you refer in your email are occurring outside of Home Affairs premises.
The Department’s official working hours at offices are from 07h30 to 16h00. However, at the Marabastad Office, officials begin working as early at 06h00 and continue beyond 16h00. It is correct that asylum seekers are asked to queue to have services rendered. However, vulnerable groups, including children, pregnant women and the physically challenged are serviced without having to queue.”
Mamoepa denied the allegations that asylum seekers taken to DHA premises were told to move out of the premises and go back home, saying that instead, some were being re-directed to their Satellite Office at the Show grounds for both assistance with section 22 permits and for interviews.
“Their files are retrieved from the Main Office and transported to Satellite Office with a government car that is escorted by Security Officials and this is done to reduce pressure at the Main Office and to ensure that as many Asylum seekers as possible receive services we can on daily basis. No asylum seeker has been at the Marabastad Refugee Reception Office for seven days without receiving assistance,” added Mamoepa.
He requested that the solidarity Peace Trust assists in the fight against corruption with regard to permits by communicating to its stakeholders and clients that asylum services are rendered free of charge at the Marabastad Refugee Reception Office and “clients must not pay a cent to any person including our officials”.
First come, first served
“Asylum seekers should be advised to report to the office at 06h00 in the morning whereupon security officials will take care of them and ensure that the principle of first come first served is upheld from a queue management point of view.”
Marabastad became very congested, after the decision by the Department of Home Affairs to close down Crown Mines in Johannesburg in May.
Human Rights organisations have continued to receive complaints of corruption, beatings and other forms of abuse from asylum seekers, leading to the three organizations’ decision to send representatives on a fact finding mission.
The SA Home Affairs Department had not responded to questions emailed to them by The Zimbabwean at the time of going to print.Post published in: News