The Department of Home Affairs has signed an agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR ) to eliminate delays and a backlog in decisions for asylum seekers.
Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said: “I am happy that the UNHCR is partnering with the government and people of South Africa in eliminating the backlog in the asylum seeker system.
“The start of this backlog coincided with the year 2008 when there was a global financial crisis. Up until then, the department was able to clear asylum applications which it was receiving each year from 1998, the year in which the Refugee Act of South Africa was enacted.”
As of the 2019/20 financial year, the Refugee Appeal Authority of SA (RAASA), an independent statutory administrative tribunal tasked with ensuring that appeal cases are dealt with efficiently, said the backlog stood at more than 153 000. The Auditor-General said, if nothing changed, it would take 68 years to clear the backlog, without taking new cases.
“The partnership we are launching brings in financial and technical support to help RAASA eliminate the backlog and establish a robust asylum appeals management programme going into the future. Over the next four years, the UNHCR will make available US$9.6 million or around R147 million to RAASA and technical support to eliminate this backlog,” Motsoaledi said.
Motsoaledi said the agreement would see the UNHCR pay for 36 new members of Raasa, including their training and equipment. The number of people now who must be cleared via this backlogs is 163 000.
Currently in Cape Town, thousands of refugees are displaced after they fled their homes due to xenophobia fears. They have been relocated to two temporary sites – one in Bellville Paint City and the others at Wingfield Military site in Goodwood.
Parliament’s home affairs portfolio committee has since intervened to either repatriate people back to their home countries or to reintegrate the refugees back into their communities.
The committee had set March 15 as the deadline for the UNHCR, the City and the Department of Home Affairs together to come up with a plan for the former Greenmarket Square refugees.