Govt tackles backlog of reviews of asylum decisions

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pretoria - The Department of Home Affairs says it has identified a massive backlog in the review of decisions not to grant asylum to asylum seekers, however it is working hard to clear the backlog.

The department has roped in police, appointed a document management company and will extend working hours as part of efforts to clear the backlog, Director-General Mkuseli Apleni said on Thursday.

South Africa is one of the largest receiving states for refugees and asylum seekers, currently receiving an average of between 3 500 and 4 000 new asylum applications every month.

After a recent audit, it was found that there was a backlog in the review of decisions by the Refugees Appeal Board and the Standing Committee on Review Affairs.

Apleni explained that if a person's application for asylum is judged to be unfounded, the applicant is informed on his or her right to appeal the decision.

The Refugees Appeal Board reviews such decisions and decides whether to uphold the decision not to grant asylum or to set it aside.

If an application is found to be manifestly unfounded, the decision is automatically reviewed by the Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs.

Apleni said the department had identified backlogs in reviewing unfounded applications by the Refugees Appeal Board in Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Marabastad, Pretoria Showgrounds, and Musina. This backlog currently stands at 87 602.

A backlog of 68 740 in the review of manifestly unfounded applications by the Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs was also found in these regions.

"Having acknowledged the immense challenge we face in finalising applications for asylum, we have taken a number of steps which will be effective from Monday, 16 April," he said.

As of Monday, working hours at Home Affairs offices will be extended, with the offices operating from 7.30am to 5pm from Monday to Friday.

In addition, Refugee Reception Offices will be opened on Saturdays from 8am to 1pm until the backlog has been resolved.

The department will put in place a schedule which will see asylum seekers from specific regions being attended to on allocated days.

Those from SADC countries will be attended to on Monday and Tuesday; East Africa on Wednesday and Saturday; West Africa on Thursday; and those from Asia and other countries will be attended to on Friday.

Since Wednesday, members from SAPS have been assisting Home Affairs with queue management.
Immigration officers will also be deployed to help SAPS and existing security teams at the Refugee Reception Offices with queue management.

Apleni was hopeful that the backlog would be cleared in the next four months.