South Africa swamped by African asylum seekers

The Refugees Appeal Board and the Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs are swamped by appeals to review previously rejected asylum applications, an official said on Thursday

This was causing a delay in issuing asylum certificates, home affairs director general Mkhuseli Apleni told reporters in Pretoria.

He said 87,602 asylum applications were being reviewed by the Refugees Appeal Board (RAB).

Another 68,740 applications which were initially rejected and deemed manifestly unfounded were being reviewed by the Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs (SCRA).

“If an application is found to be manifestly unfounded, the decision is automatically reviewed by the SCRA,” said Apleni.

“If the initial decision to reject an application is upheld by the RAB or the SCRA, a final rejection letter is issued to the applicant.”

He said the department was struggling with the processing of large numbers of applications.

“South Africa is the recipient of some of the highest volumes of asylum seekers in the world… at this stage we are receiving an average of between 3,500 and 4,000 new applications for asylum each month.” He said as of Monday next week, the department would operate its refugee reception offices at extended hours.

He said to ease the application process, all Southern African Development Community nationals would be assisted on Mondays and Tuesdays, while East Africans would be helped on Wednesdays and Saturdays and West Africans on Thursdays.

Apleni said Asians and other nationals who fell outside the African groups would be assisted on Fridays.

If applicants arrived at the Refugee Reception Offices on a day that had not been allocated to them, they would not be assisted. He said the department was especially concerned about the long queues at the Marabastad offices, and that police officers would be assigned there to manage those queues.