SOUTH African Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba said between 2015 and 2016 more than 40 home affairs officials had been arrested for corruption.
During a World Refugee Day event held at the Catholic Archdiocese in Johannesburg, the minister said the department was trying its best to make sure that asylum seekers were treated fairly.
“We get clues via social networks and we are quite happy that some immigrants report. We are doing our best and by improving work processes we will reduce the abuse of immigrants.”
Earlier, Gigaba visited the Bienvenu Shelter which is currently home to 19 women and child refugees who came to South Africa because of wars and violence in their home countries.
June 20th was declared World Refugee Day by the United Nation General Assembly in 2000.
Addresing the issue of corruption, Gigaba said that some home affairs officials had had a way of finding out who needed a visa and would contact the applicant and be the middle man in helping them obtain the relevant documents.
“Cases were reported and the people were found and dismissed. Better managing of asylum seeker and refugee systems will drop the volumes of corruption,” he said.
Gigaba explained what the difference between refugees and economic migrants were and the challenges they faced.
“Economic migrants are people who leave their countries to seek work and aren’t running away from anything but to seek employment. We must not lose focus on genuine asylum seekers. There are laws that cater for all those people who are here for various reasons.”
He said a new government white paper process would deal with immigrants accordingly and said the department had noticed that many were from the SADC region.
“Large amounts of asylum seekers are from the SADC region. Their domestic policies make them move. Overall its the largest number of documented and non-documented immigrants and the pull factor is the economic strength of South Africa.”
The Minister stressed that not everyone was an asylum seeker and that the department was putting in place screening methods that would ensure that genuine asylum seekers were identified in order for them to be protected accordingly.
In 2015, the Bienvenu shelter served 122 refugees from 12 countries and has since been recognised as an organisation that specifically provides safe and secure residential care for refugee women and children.
“South Africa still caters for people with various needs. We received 62 000 asylum seeker applications in 2015 and over the years they have been declining, from 72 000 in 2014,” Gigaba said.
He said that the reduction was due to the increased efficiency of the application process and that there were no longer any loop holes.
Earlier, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ Regional Representative for Southern Africa, Sharon Cooper, added that High Commissioner Filippo Grandi had said in his World Refugee Day statement that the number, complexity and protracted nature of conflicts meant that forced displacement had reached unprecedented levels since the founding of the United Nations.
“Over 60 million people are now uprooted around the world,” she said.
Cooper assured the refugees that were attending the event that the organisation, along with the South African government and operational partners, would continue to work towards addressing their issues.
“Unlike in most countries in Africa, refugees have rights in South Africa such as the right to live wherever you like and the right to work and access social services.”
“We would like to express our appreciation to the government for being a leader on the continent when it comes to having availed these rights to refugees.”
She added that the UNHCR was currently working with the South African government to reduce the refugee status determination backlog, both at first instance and appellate levels.
“We have noted the changes the government is putting place like in Marabastad to try address the changes in issuing permits to make it a more fair process with an aim to reduce the challenges.”
Cooper went on to commend the government for coming up with a National Action Plan on Racism and Xenophobia and related intolerance in its efforts to address xenophobic attacks. –ANA