|2012 06 29 Angry refugees ‘led down the garden path’|
Refugees wishing to apply for or renew their asylum seekers documentation will be in limbo until late next month, when the case lodged by civil organisations advocating for the rights of refugees comes back to the Western Cape High Court, it has emerged.
Legal Resource Centre, acting on behalf of Scalabrini Centre, an organisation fighting for the rights of refugees, launched an application with the court to stop the Department of Home Affairs from closing The Maitland Refugees Centre today but it appeared the department would go ahead with its plans to close the centre, pending the outcome of the court case on July 19.
Home Affairs said a temporary facility would be opened at Customs House on the Foreshore to wrap up the centre's work, but the centre would not accommodate new asylum seekers. They would have to go to Durban, Pretoria or Musina.
As scores of refugees picketed outside the high court against the closure of the centre, Legal Resource Centre legal representatives argued in chambers with Home Affairs' lawyers about why the centre should not close.
However, the affected refugees were not happy about the closure and said they didn't have transport to take them to Pretoria, Musina or Durban.
Scalabrini Centre's advocacy officer Rebecca Channells said the closure was "premature and irrational" and designed to create refugee camps.
Protester Pastor Bidaha Makoti Mahombi, from the DRC, said the decision to close down the centre was "inhuman and unfair".
He said this would feed into "current xenophobic attitudes" in communities, putting the lives of refugees at risk of being attacked by locals.
"We are Africans. We are proud to be Africans.
"South Africa is portraying an unfair image," Mahombi said, highlighting that refugees faced multiple challenges such as racism and documentation.
William Kerfoot, the attorney representing Scalabrini Centre, said the department's lawyers had, by yesterday, filed only draft answering papers, which were 90 pages long.
Asked about what would happen to new refugees between now and the time the court case starts, he conceded that they would be in a state of limbo.
He said if they won the case, the department would be forced by the law to document new refugees. In the event that they lost the case, he said, that provision would be made available. – WCN
The New Age