Corruption crackdown looms at Pretoria refugee office
Officials at Pretoria’s refugee reception centre face lifestyle audits amid allegations of criminal activities involving Home Affairs staff and police officers.
Hlomani Chauke‚ chairperson of parliament’s home affairs committee‚ said on Saturday the committee would instruct minister Malusi Gigaba “to urgently find solutions to the criminal challenges that continue to manifest outside the Desmond Tutu Refugee Centre”.
After a visit to the Marabastad centre on Friday‚ Chauke said the committee “remains concerned that there are criminal elements still operating outside the office”.
He added: “The committee was informed that the security situation around the precinct has not improved‚ with allegations of syndicates operating with impunity.
“It is unacceptable that the South African Police Service and metro police are alleged to be contributing to the challenges around the centre. It is also concerning that it is alleged that people are mugged in full view of police and nothing is done.”
Committee members wanted harsher action against officials found to be colluding with syndicates to undermine the refugee system. “One of the measures that must be implemented includes lifestyle audits on officials within the environment‚” said Chauke.
Home affairs spokesman Thabo Mokgola welcomed the committee’s observations‚ and Gauteng police spokesman Colonel Lungelo Dlamini promised to respond to allegations about corrupt officers.
Last year‚ the centre introduced an automated system to assist with processing asylum applications. “There seems to be a massive improvement in the process as a result‚” said Chauke.
“The infusion of technology into the system should be strengthened even further to reinforce the current advances.”
He also welcomed the intervention of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees after an outcry about backlogs at the Refugee Appeal Board.
“While the committee understands the challenges related to economic migrants clogging the appeal system‚ it is concerned that legitimate appeals are buried within the system‚” said Chauke.
The committee also wants a bigger Immigration Services Inspectorate. “It remains unacceptable that the department has only about 700 employees nationally within the inspectorate‚ a much lower number in comparison to international trends‚” said Chauke.
Gauteng provincial police spokesman‚ Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said: “These allegations have been noted with a concern. The office of the provincial commissioner with other law enforcement agencies will look at these allegations and conduct necessary investigations to make sure that those who might be colluding or forming part of a syndicate are exposed and brought to book.”