[PRESS RELEASE] LHR to appear at the Constitutional Court to challenge the interpretation of the Refugee Act

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) will appear at the Constitutional Court on Thursday 1 November 2018 to challenge the Department of Home Affairs’ interpretation of the provisions of the Refugees Act that relate to exclusion from refugee status.


Mr Ruta a national from Rwanda arrived in South Africa in December 2014 and attempted to apply for asylum in February and March 2015. However, Mr. Ruta was informed on both occasions that the DHA system was down and he therefore could not have his application processed. Mr. Ruta was subsequently convicted with driving with an unlicensed motor cycle and driving without valid driver’s licence and as a result he served a three month prison sentence for these crimes.


After his release, Mr. Ruta was denied the opportunity to apply for asylum because of the fact that he had a criminal conviction.


According to s4(1)(b) of the Refugees Act a person may be denied refugee status if he/she “has committed a crime which is not of a political nature and which, if committed in the Republic, would be punishable by imprisonment”. The DHA relied on this provision in refusing to process Mr. Ruta’s application for refugee status.


LHR argued that the actions of the DHA were procedurally incorrect and amounted to unfair administrative action. Every person that approaches the Refugee Reception Office (RRO) must be given the opportunity to apply for asylum and be processed correctly. An interview must be conducted by the Refugee Status Determination Officer (RSDO) who is afforded the powers to accept or reject an asylum application by the Refugees Act. The RSDO must then issue a written decision conveying his/her decision to the asylum applicant. This procedure ensures that an applicant is not arbitrarily sent back to a country where he/she could face persecution.


For more information please contact Faith Munyathi, Law Clinic Manager on 012 320 2943 or Carol Mohlala, Media and Communications Manager on 079 238 9826