Over the weekend, the South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba decided to extend the deadline for the Lesotho Special Permit. After receiving an underwhelming number of permits, the Minister extended the deadline to September 30, 2016. There are more than 400,000 Basotho’s living in South Africa who are undocumented, but are eligible to receive legalized documentation from the South African government. This program will pardon those who are in possession of falsified documents and will receive legitimate documents. This permit program is essential to obtaining legal documents and should be utilized by Basothos.
On Monday, one of our clients returned to receive his Request for Review (RFR) from his denial for resettlement in the United States. When he returned, he was overjoyed that we were able to completed his RFR and asked me if I knew how long before he would hear back from the UNHCR. Admittedly, I had no idea how long or short the process takes, but with the increasing number of resettlement cases for asylum seekers and refugees eagerly awaiting to leave South Africa, I am sure the application turnover time has drastically decreased. His translator further informed us that he would like to add that he has a sponsor in the United States because he believed that would increase his chances of being approved. I asked the translator why he was so adamant about leaving South Africa, and he replied that his family is in increasing danger and the attacks against him have worsened. Stories like these can be exceedingly overwhelming, but I find solace in knowing that I’ve helped with a small part of his journey in finding his family safer living conditions.
Later in the week the Department of Home Affairs announced they will appeal a recent High Court decision that allowed asylum seekers to renew their permits in their home office as well as offices in Durban, Pretoria, and Musina. On June 7, 2016 the Legal Resource Center (LRC) received a letter from the Department of Home Affairs stating they will appeal the order granted in our favor. The letter also indicated that the LRC should inform its clients that none of their permits will be extended at the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office (CTRRO) and none of their files will be transferred while the appeal is pending. In the case DHA is appealing, they were ordered to allow Cape Town RRO to renew the permits of asylum seekers whose permits were first applied for at other RROs. Consequently, an appeal will likely take a number of months as it will probably go to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein. The appeal must first be granted a date in Bloemfontein, then the appeal will be attended and argued by both the LRC and the attorneys for the Department. Thereafter, the SCA judges will have to deliver a judgment, which will be many days or weeks after the hearing. Unfortunately, as the appeal process is occurring, asylum seekers will have to travel back to their original RRO to renew their permit. This seems to be another ploy by Home Affairs to reduce the number of refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa because by mandating them to travel far distances, the high cost of travel will cause for late renewals, heightened late application fees, and therefore more people denied refuge and asylum in the country.
Furthermore, while at PASSOP, another one of our interns, who works specifically with fundraising and the LGBTI program, hosted a fundraiser at her home to raise money for an LGBTI awareness event in late July. The fundraiser was a great success as all interns invited their friends, made donations, and enjoyed traditional and non-traditional braai-style food. The July event will feature LGBTI refugees who have offered to tell their personal journey in addition to activists and local artists whose work will be displayed. Our office is eagerly anticipating this event as we are sure it’ll be a great success.
Finally, we celebrated our friends 21st birthday! Although turning 21 is not as commemorative as it is in the States for potentially obvious reasons, we had a great time celebrating with her as she reached an amazing milestone.
Cape Town is an amazing city full of life and excitement and each day I continue to find hidden treasures and gems.