The Zimbabwe Exiles’ Forum (ZEF) has commended the South African government for making changes to its asylum seeker permit procedures that have been introduced by the Department of Home Affairs at Marabastad Refugee Reception Office.
Gabriel Shumba of the ZEF said, “Not only do these changes make the application for asylum easy and convenient, they also remove rampant touting and corruption that was being experienced outside Marabastad.”
Shumba said some asylum seekers were paying up to R500 in order to for their applications to be processed by a center gripped by alleged corruption.
The newly-introduced procedure for asylum seekers requires the applicants to deposit their identification in a designated box and wait to be called by name before they can go into the Refugee Reception Centre.
There have been allegations of rampant corruption in the past with reports that asylum seekers who pay R500 each are given first preference as there was no clear criteria in processing applications.
Long queues had become the order of the day at the refugee center with civic society organizations calling for a better way of processing applications.
Zimbabweans who are processed on Mondays and Tuesdays have been known to queue for weeks before they are interviewed by relevant officials. This scenario has led to untold hardships where women have allegedly been raped and various people being robbed while exposed to the harsh weather as they slept outside the center for many days.
Shumba said, “ZEF is requesting that the DHA implement longer validity asylum seeker permit periods so that applicants are not forced to frequent Refugee Reception Offices. To reduce corruption even further, we urge the Department of Home Affairs to introduce a uniform period of extension for the permits.
“We urge the DHA to adjudicate refugee applications in the shortest possible time as some applicants have been on asylum seeker permits for over fifteen years and this leaves their lives in a limbo. Lastly, we thank the Department and all its officials for an improved system of consultation with civil society organizations to introduce efficient and smoother procedures in the asylum and refugee process.”