It has been 8 months since we filed an application to challenge the Department of Home Affairs’ closure of the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office. On 7 February this year, the case once again came before the High Court. Corey Johnson, our Advocacy Assistant, provides the latest developments on the case:
Latest Developments – Refugee Reception Office Closure Case
The Scalabrini Centre’s court case against the Department of Home Affairs’ closure of the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office (CTRRO) to ‘newcomer’ asylum seekers was heard in the Western Cape High Court on 7 February.The application was initially filed in June 2012 in an attempt to fight the restriction of the asylum system in South Africa in which the CTRRO closure is but the latest in a string of office closures, including the closures of the Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth Refugee Reception Offices.
Previous hearings in this matter have resulted in the High Court issuing judgments in favour of asylum seeker and refugee rights, with an interim court order issued on 25 July 2012and confirmed on 30 August 2012 requiring the Department to receive asylum seekers in Cape Town until the whole case has been heard. Unfortunately, the Department has refused to abide by this interim order and has sought leave to appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA). The SCA will hear oral arguments on the matter later this year.
At the High Court on 7 February, our Advocate, Steven Budlender, argued that the closure of the office was unlawful on three grounds: that there was not proper public consultation taken before the decision was made to close the office to newcomers; that the Department had made the decision to close the office before consulting with the Standing Committee for Refugee Affairs, as required by law; and that the closure of the office was irrational and unreasonable given the current state of the asylum system.
In Court, the Department’s response contained some inconsistent statements regarding its own policy and procedures surrounding permit extensions and file transfers at the CTRRO which affect the right to freedom of movement for asylum seekers. Judge Owen Rogers said that if the Department had indeed ‘changed its mind’, then it would have to submit another affidavit to the court stating so, which it did late last week. Due to this late filing, judgment has again been delayed, but we remain confident in our case and hope that the matter will be finalised in early March 2013.
Please continue to check the Scalabrini website for the latest developments on this case. We will be posting updates as more information becomes available.