Judge Jeremy Pickering ordered that the office, which was closed in November 2011, be reopened with immediate effect and allowed to operate at full functionality to serve refugees and asylum seekers in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality.
The action was brought against the department of home affairs by the Somali Association of South Africa and the Project for Conflict Resolution and Development, in conjunction with the Hivos Eastern Cape Refugee and Migrant Programme, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Refugee Rights Centre, the Social Change Assistance Trust and the Black Sash.
“The department of home affairs and director general did not consult the standing committee on refugee affairs on the closing, which the Refugee Act says they must do.” Michael Bendle, of the Project for Conflict Resolution and Development told iMaverick. Civic organisations were invited to meet with home affairs in Pretoria in October last year, and were told that the refugee reception office would stop processing new applications the next day, and close at the end of November 2011. “There was no consultation whatsoever. The arrogance was unbelievable.”
Bendle says a change in the leadership at home affairs had brought an about-face in attitude. “There has been a huge change in the department of home affairs, and the political will seems to have changed. When Malusi Gigaba was deputy minister of home affairs, we had a wonderful ministry, and things were very different. Gigaba was committed to understanding the plight of refugees and asylum seekers.”
Home affairs ministry is currently headed by AU-aspirant Nkosazana