Corruption Watch (CW) has today written to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs in respect of the rampant corruption and maladministration that continues unabated at the Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Centre in Marabastad, Pretoria – a dire state of affairs which has recently caused committee members to discuss the need for urgent steps to be taken. However, CW has highlighted in its letter how it has tried for many years to work with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to resolve this issue and to pressure the DHA into taking more urgent and meaningful steps to address corruption at Marabastad.

Since 2015, CW has been raising concerns with the DHA, having received a number of reports of corruption, and identified weaknesses in the system. In its substantive report titled Project Lokisa: Asylum at a Price, CW identified numerous opportunities for corruption in the Home Affairs refugee system and highlighted the outcomes of its investigations together with 314 reports from foreign nationals relating to extortion, threats and solicitation from government officials.

The reports received from the foreign nationals enabled CW to launch a sting operation that resulted in criminal charges being lodged at the Johannesburg Central Police Station against two DHA officials and one interpreter employed by ZRGB Translation and Interpretation Services. The organisation has referred these matters to the Hawks but is concerned with the slow progress of these investigations and the apparent lack of co-operation from DHA. Another concerning issue is that the protection of refugees and asylum seekers who report such matters is not being guaranteed, and as a result they are afraid to come forward as witnesses, significantly impeding the progress of investigations.

The corruption at DHA is not only occurring at the refugee reception office in Pretoria but also at the skeleton office in Cape Town. The organisation has referred six cases to the Hawks in Cape Town relating to corruption in that area.

Despite numerous calls for reform and urgent action in respect of these issues, the DHA has failed to engage with CW and its civil society partners in taking decisive steps to address corruption affecting refugees and asylum seekers, and working with civil society to implement impactful steps to address the corruption and maladministration. This refusal of the department and the ministry to co-operate with us characterised Malusi Gigaba’s previous stint as home affairs minister.

“We have been completely disillusioned by the manner in which the DHA has failed to respond to our efforts to assist them in addressing corruption affecting refugees and asylum seekers,” said CW’s head of legal and investigations, Leanne Govindsamy. “Despite our best efforts, such co-operation is not forthcoming and the people who bear the consequences, are the most vulnerable members of society.”

Instead of having their applications for asylum and refugee status considered timeously and fairly, they become victims of a broken system. Govindsamy said. “South Africa has local and international obligations to ensure refugee protection and this protection is severely undermined by the current state of affairs.”

CW also highlighted the recent submissions to the committee on the Draft Refugees Regulations 2018 and the Draft Immigration Amendment Bill which were made in order to apprise the committee of our efforts in addressing corruption affecting refugees and asylum seekers.

The organisation is calling upon the home affairs portfolio committee to consider our letter carefully and take steps to hold the DHA accountable for their dilatory conduct in addressing corruption at Marabastad and other refugee centres.

Corruption Watch also urges the committee to work together with the Portfolio Committee on Police and the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services to understand and address the difficulties in successfully investigating and prosecuting these matters.

Download our letter to the portfolio committee, and annexures as a 7mb zip file.

For more information contact:

Phemelo Khaas:           083 763 3472