Home Affairs mulls asylum offices at border posts

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Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says the department is considering establishing asylum offices at South Africa’s ports of entry, in an effort to improve the migration process.

This will enable asylum seekers to get their documents without traveling long distances to Home Affairs offices and assist in reducing the duration of getting one’s documents.

Addressing the media on Tuesday, the Minister said the department is working on a plan to have a one-stop service centre at all ports of entry to assist asylum seekers, reports official South African news agency SAnews.
“We believe that this is going to assist all migrants and asylum seekers in acquiring their documents on time,” the Minister said.

An asylum seeker is a person who has fled his or her country of origin and is seeking recognition and protection as a refugee in South Africa, and whose application is still under consideration. In the event of a negative decision on his application, he has to leave the country voluntarily or will be deported.

A refugee is a person who has been granted asylum status and protection in terms of the Refugee Act. South Africa has an obligation to grant protection to refugees and other persons in need of protection under a number of United Nations Conventions.

Also in the pipeline is the introduction of an online appointment system for migrants and asylum seekers in October.

Migrants and asylum seekers will, following the introduction of the system, be able to make their appointments online and only have to go to the offices to be assisted.

Minister Gigaba explained that the system will help prevent asylum seekers from falling prey to corruption. Asylum seekers, in desperate need of asylum documents, fall prey to corrupt officials who demand bribes from them to assist them in acquiring documents.

The Minister said interpreters who used to assist asylum seekers will no longer be available at the offices, but will be available telephonically.

He was briefing media after meeting with the African Diaspora Forum on Wednesday. The purpose of the meeting was to explore what needs to be done by the department in partnership with stakeholders to improve the quality of services offered to asylum seekers and refugees.

The African Diaspora Forum is an umbrella body of various migrant communities living in South Africa.
“We are grateful to receive from the African Diaspora Forum concrete proposals on the services rendered at some Refugee Reception Offices in the country,” he said.

African Diaspora Chairperson Marc Gbaffou said as an organisation they are prepared to work with the department to find ways to improve the conditions of asylum seekers.

Minister Gigaba has undertaken to meet with various formations with a view to gathering their views and proposals on international migration.