More than two years after a deadline set by the courts, the Port Elizabeth Refugee Reception Office is still not fully operational, MPs were told last week.
Briefing Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, Department of Home Affairs officials acknowledged that, although the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office had started slowly receiving new applicants, the Port Elizabeth office was not yet open for newcomers, GroundUp reports.
The reopening of the offices follows two court rulings. In March 2015 the Supreme Court of Appeals ordered Home Affairs to reopen the Port Elizabeth Refugee Reception Centre. Home Affairs had until July 1, 2016 to comply.
The same court ruled in September 2017 that Home Affairs must reopen and maintain a fully functional refugee reception office in Cape Town by the end of March 2018.
But neither office is fully functioning yet, MPs heard.
According to Home Affairs, instead of 62 people in the Port Elizabeth office, there are only 22 officials, with two refugee status determination officers. The estimated cost of seconding officials was R450 000 a month, and R4m a year would be necessary to fund only the critically important posts, Jackson Mackay from the department said.
MP Tandiwe Elizabeth Kenye (ANC) asked what the department’s recruitment strategy was to fill in the vacancies.
Mackay said the department’s budget was a constraint. “The R7.9bn is not enough for the department, yet it is at the centre of the government. Treasury should capacitate the department in this regard,” said Mackay.
Hlengiwe Octavia Mkhaliphi