New refugee centre to help ease congestion

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pretoria - A new refugee reception centre will open in Pretoria west next week to help ease congestion at the Marabastad Home Affairs office.

The Marabastad office has been battling to cope with the high number of foreigners applying for documentation and asylum seeker permits. Hundreds of foreigners camp outside on the pavement every day in unhealthy conditions while waiting for their documents to be processed.

Tshwane Interim Refugee Reception Centre situated on Soutter Street, however, includes a large fenced off waiting area so that applicants will no longer have to queue on the streets as well as plenty of seating.

Applications will be processed on the same day at the new facility. In the past, applicants had to go through a series of interviews and would wait for weeks before their applications status could be declared.

The centre is expected to cater for more than 400 asylum seekers a day.

Briefing the media, the department's Acting Chief Director for Refugee Affairs Busisiwe Mkhwebane-Tshehla said there was a lot of pressure on the two existing main refugee offices in Marabastad and Crown Mines.

"With the opening of this building it's going to be easier for applicants from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to have their application processed faster."

She said 65 percent of people seeking asylum in South Africa came from SADC countries with Zimbabwe accounting for 50 percent of that figure.

Ms Mkhwebane-Tshehla said security would also be beefed up to stamp out fraud and corruption.

Meanwhile, Cabinet has mandated the department to look into the possibility of establishing "transit camps" to better manage the migration of people into South Africa

Departmental spokesperson Siobhan McCarthy said discussions were underway to facilitate the process.