Every single step of asylum process in SA marred by corruption

A trip into South Africa  by a refugee is marred by corruption and extortion from the moment the asylum seekers reach the borders to the point they apply for their permits at the department of home affairs, where they are even forced to pay for interpreters, a study found. This was revealed in a survey, Costly Protection: Corruption in South Africa's Asylum System by Lawyers for Human Rights in collaboration with Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town and Corruption Watch. "We are looking into the report. We'll respond at a later stage," said Home Affairs spokesperson Siya Qoza. The report, which...
A trip into South Africa  by a refugee is marred by corruption and extortion from the moment the asylum seekers reach the borders to the point they apply for their permits at the department of home affairs, where they are even forced to pay for interpreters, a study found.

This was revealed in a survey, Costly Protection: Corruption in South Africa's Asylum System by Lawyers for Human Rights in collaboration with Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town and Corruption Watch.

"We are looking into the report. We'll respond at a later stage," said Home Affairs spokesperson Siya Qoza.

The report, which tracked changes in corruption in the asylum system over the last five years, found reports of various incidents of extortion or corruption to access services that are officially free-of-charge.

This, however, started at the border. In 2015, about 13% of the surveyed asylum seekers said they were asked for money by border officials with one in four having paid more than R700. The highest amount reportedly paid was R2 500.

This changed in 2019 as 10% of the 116 respondents reported being asked for money by an official to cross the border into South Africa through a regular border post.

"About 11% also reported that they had been arrested in South Africa for not having the correct documents before making it to a RRO [refugee reception office], indicating that these people were/\r\n/
either not supplied with proper documents at the border, could not make it from the border to the RRO within 14 days, or they were arrested for reasons unrelated to their immigration status," said/\r\n/
the report.

Respondents were found to have made more than one attempt to access the refugee reception office with 32% asylum seekers in 2019 saying they were required to pay to gain access to the office.

About 6% had to pay to apply for an asylum permit, a figure that went down from 29% in 2015, despite the application being a free process. But 26% reported they had to pay to avoid being a arrested, a figure which jumped from 11% in 2015.

The longer an individual is in the asylum system, the greater the risk of experiencing corruption which continues when having to renew permits and documentation.

The 2019 results showed that 41% of applicants had to return to renew their permits, with a large 29% having returned more than five times. About 12% of individuals had paid once for their permits to be renewed while 3% have paid at least five times. In addition, refugees were forced to pay for official interpreters at the home affairs department, with 12% reporting having paid for interpreter assistance which is a free service by the department.

But refugees had little knowledge of the process of reporting corruption nor the confidence for their pleas to be taken seriously.

"The overall conclusion is that corruption is still rife at all stages of the asylum process in South Africa," said the report.

"Without effective processes in place, corruption will remain entrenched in all stages of the asylum process."

rorisangk@citizen.co.za

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