22 November 2016
Corruption at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), according to a new report, Project Lokisa: Asylum at a Price, released by Corruption Watch today, is now so endemic that only a concerted effort by multiple stakeholders can hope to curb it.
The DHA has failed to respond to any of the attempts by Corruption Watch and its civil society partners to alert them to the reports of corruption received from foreign nationals, and also rejected the recommendations contained in a memorandum proposing practical solutions to the problem.
As a result of investigations into allegations of extortion, threats and bribery by government officials, Corruption Watch last week opened criminal cases at the Johannesburg Central Police station against three individuals implicated in corrupt activities at Marabastad Refugee Reception office (RRO) (case numbers: 934/11/16; 935/11/16 and 936/11/16).
According to a 2015 UN High Commission for Refugees report, Global Trends: Forced Displacement, there are currently 3.2-million individuals awaiting decisions on asylum claims globally. Of these, South Africa has the highest number of pending asylum claims, with an astonishing 1 096 100 individuals waiting for their claims to be processed. This points to the lack of efficiency at the DHA in processing such claims.
Since 2012, Corruption Watch has received 314 complaints of corruption relating to applications for asylum or refugee status and other immigration-related processes. The findings of the report show that 80% of these complaints involved RROs, which include home affairs officials, security guards, administrators and interpreters. About 17% implicated metro police and other SAPS officials, and 74% involved bribes demanded for issuing asylum and refugee permits.
Corruption Watch’s executive director David Lewis says: “These gatekeepers vary from the security guard who extracts R100 for allowing the refugee to literally enter the gate of the documentation centre, to the Department of Home Affairs official who is custodian of that vital final stamp and whose fee is often measured in thousands of rands.”
The Corruption Watch report highlights the opportunities for corruption which arise at multiple points. These include when foreign nationals present documents to law enforcement officials, or apply for works permits, or seek asylum and refugee status. In addition, when applicants are required to engage directly with home affairs, SAPS or security officials, bribes are often demanded in order for documents to be issued or entry to the RRO granted.
One of the aims of this project is to make recommendations to the DHA to mobilise support for initiatives to tackle corruption and address difficulties experienced by asylum seekers and refugees. These include the establishment by Corruption Watch of a reports handling mechanism to assist the DHA in gathering reports of corruption complaints. For its part, DHA is urged to commit to maintaining an integrated and urban refugee framework, and to implementing targeted anti-corruption initiatives. Of particular importance is the commitment by the DHA to pursue disciplinary proceedings against officials identified in the Project Lokisa sting operations.
“Our simple request to the Department of Home Affairs is that they work with us,” adds Lewis. “This doesn’t require extra resources from the department. Mutual empathy with the plight of the most vulnerable members of our society is all that is needed.”
A copy of the report and accompanying video, in which whistle-blowers tell their stories and evidence obtained in the sting operation is included, was sent to the Home Affairs minister.
To access the report, the infographic and video, go to the following links:
For more information:
Patience Mkosana 072 992-8380 firstname.lastname@example.org
Moira Campbell 083 995 4711 email@example.com