Court orders CT refugee reception office to accept new asylum applicants

Court Orders Cape Town Refugee Reception Office to Accept New Asylum Applicants Judge Dennis Davis of the Western Cape High Court decided in favour of continued access to the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office (CT RRO) for new asylum applicants.

The Judge found that the decision by the Department of Home Affairs was taken without the legally required consultation with the Standing Committee for Refugee Affairs and that the decision itself was neither rational nor reasonable.

The Court issued an interim order requiring the Department of Home Affairs to accept new applicants for asylum pending a full review. The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town was represented by the Legal Resources Centre and the University of Cape Town Refugee Rights Project. Judge Davis found that the Department of Home Affairs had merely asked the Standing Committee for Refugee Affairs to approve a previously made decision.

This “rubberstamping”, he decided, could not be considered the legally mandated consultation. Judge Davis additionally concluded that the decision to close the CT RRO was unreasonable and irrational as it would only exacerbate the admitted backlog and impinge on the rights of a particularly vulnerable group of people.

The Court held that there appeared to be no good reason why Customs House could not be used on an interim basis as it had previously serviced even larger numbers of new applicants. This flowed from the reading by Judge Davis that the decision constituted Administrative Action, and therefore is one subject to the parameters set out in the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act and its specific requirements for rationality and reasonableness.

The Court made valuable mention of repeated High Court Judgments which have emphasised the vulnerability of asylum seekers. Judge Davis expressed deep concern with the attitude of the DHA towards asylum seekers, specifically their argument that asylum seekers do not have rights.

He noted that such attitudes were particularly indefensible in light of South Africa’s history as a refugee producing state during apartheid.

He finished by emphasizing our moral duty as Africans to show genuine hospitality to our African brothers and sisters.

The Scalabrini Centre particularly welcomes this judicial word of caution against the antirefugee sentiment animating the Department of Home Affair’s recent shifts towards a “security paradigm”. It is our sincere hope that the DHA hears these words of caution and moderates its approach accordingly in future decisions.

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