Human rights organizations in Cape Town have embarked on an intense advocacy action to pressure the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to reopen the city’s Refugee Reception Office (RRO) as ordered by the Supreme Court of Appeal. The DHA closed Cape Town’s RRO in July 2012, and it has failed to reopen it despite two court orders. The most recent court order of September 2017 mandated the DHA to reopen the RRO by 31 March 2018. Despite being in contempt of court, there is no indication from the DHA that they are working urgently to reopen the RRO.
Currently, asylum seekers must register at one of three RROs located in Durban, Musina and Pretoria. Asylum seekers are granted temporary permits, which must be frequently renewed (every three to six months). With the RRO in Cape Town closed, asylum seekers living in the Mother City must travel every few months to Durban, Musina or Pretoria (1,455 kilometers, 1,633 kilometers and 1,923 kilometers away from Cape Town, respectively). The DHA is meant to process an asylum seeker’s claim for refugee status within six months, but due to lack of resources and endemic corruption at the DHA, however, the process more often takes up to five years or more. This situation puts an enormous financial and emotional burden on asylum seekers, who cannot return to their homelands for fear of persecution or death. For certain types of asylum seekers, such as unaccompanied minors, the disabled or the elderly, the journey is almost impossible.
ALPS Resilience and other organizations started a countdown on social media leading up to 31 March 2018 (#OpentheRRO), conducted a silent protest at the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs in Parliament and have published press releases and op-eds on the topic. We are committed to working in conjunction with Chapter Nine institutions and the courts to do everything in our power to ensure that the DHA complies with its ruling to reopen the RRO in Cape Town.