Marabastad refugee reception office corruption: 'Pay up if you want an asylum permit'

23 July 2015 - 12:17 By Nomahlubi Jordaan

Of the five refugee reception offices in the country‚ Marabastad in Pretoria is the most corrupt‚ a research report released by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) revealed. The report entitled "Queue here for corruption - Measuring irregularities in South Africa's asylum system" was launched at a seminar at the University of the Witwatersrand's law school on Wednesday.It is based on a survey among more than 900 asylum seekers and refugees questioned at the Marabastad‚ Tshwane Interim‚ Cape Town‚ Musina and Durban refugee reception offices.The Marabastad refugee reception office showed the highest levels of corruption (62%)‚ while Durban recorded the lowest (3%).According to the report‚ 13% of all the participants reported being asked for money by a border official while trying to cross the border.About one in five reported being asked for a bribe in queues outside the refugee reception offices."At Marabastad‚ 51% reported experiencing corruption in the queue‚" the report read.Of all those surveyed‚ 13% reported being unable to access an office because they did not pay.Some have also experienced corruption inside the refugee reception offices‚ with 12% reporting having paid at least once to renew their asylum permit. At Marabastad‚ nearly a quarter of people had paid.According to the report‚ one in five people had been asked for money to resolve the issue that brought them to the office‚ while the number was 47% at Marabastad.Professor Loren Landau of ACMS said the report showed how "the whole migration management system is shifting from one that is based on law to one based on profit".And while the Department of Home Affairs has recognised that corruption exists‚ it only points the finger to a few officials‚ Landau said.In a statement in January‚ the Department of Home Affairs acknowledged "the existence of pockets of corruption and fraudulent activities" at the Marabastad refugee reception office.It said it had issued a "stern wanring" to officials at the centre and continued to undertake lifestyle audits of employees in an attempt to find those guilty of corruption.According to the report‚ several factors contribute to the prevalence of corruption in the refugee reception offices."Foremost among these is the Department of Home Affairs's failure to respond to the high levels of demand that quickly exceeded the capacity of a system designed around individualised decision-making‚" the report read.The closure of the offices in Johannesburg‚ Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in 2011 and 2012 have also ensured "that demand continued to outstrip capacity"‚ thus increasing the incentives of corruption‚ the report noted.The report recommended that Parliament exercises greater oversight of the home affairs department in its managment of the asylum process‚ demands that the department account in its efforts to combat corruption and increases the resources directed at operating the asylum system.- TMG Courts and Law

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