Cape Town Sanctuary Lost Movie

Scalabrini releases new documentary on the future of South Africa’s refugees

Scalabrini has released a new documentary, Sanctuary Lost, which explores the history and future for South Africa’s refugees.

Watch the full film by clicking here.

Watch the trailer version by clicking here.

Download our Sanctuary Lost press release here.

What is Sanctuary Lost about?

Over time, South Africa’s progressive refugee system has descended into a state of crisis. In response, the government now plans to construct detention camps on its northern borders, and a main tenet of the South African constitution – freedom of movement – is set to be compromised. Sanctuary Lost, an unprecedented documentary, combines expert, academic and refugee voices to track the rise and collapse of South Africa’s unique refugee landscape.

In the oppressive context of apartheid, few refugees sought asylum in South Africa. Through archive footage and exclusive interviews, Sanctuary Lost traces the history behind the 1998 Refugees Act, which transformed South Africa from a refugee-producing to a refugee-receiving country. Fast-forward to 2018, and South Africa’s refugee system has descended into a state of crisis. Sanctuary Lost explores the human impact of the imploding system, where huge numbers of asylum applicants, corruption and limited capacity have resulted in asylum seekers being stuck in administrative limbo for up to fifteen years. The government’s closure of several Refugee Reception Offices – and refusal to reopen them – has added more pressure to the struggling system. In what are described as ‘the camps of the future’, the South African government has responded by planning to construct ‘asylum processing centres’. In a series of plans that are reminiscent of Australia’s asylum system (and South Africa’s history of restricted human movement) asylum applicants will not have the right to work and face detention in uncertain circumstances. Only those granted refugee status will be ‘released’ into South African society. It is not clear how these centres will be run, or who will fund them.

Sanctuary Lost seeks to raise awareness around the complex history – and worrying future – of South Africa’s refugee system. Whilst the asylum system is under immense pressure, there are a variety of solutions to relieve this and allow for the Refugees Act to be properly implemented. Constructing refugee camps is not only unnecessary; it is a costly, inhumane way to process South Africa’s refugees.

Want to know more?

For more information, please contact Lotte Manicom – lotte@scalabrini.org.za – or call +27 (0)21 465 6433.

Sanctuary Lost Trailer

Watch the trailer of Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town's new documentary 'Sanctuary Lost', exploring the history and future of the refugee system in South Africa.

Cape Town Press Release Refugee reception Office Our Response

Cape Town Refugee Reception Office: Our Response to Home Affairs’ Media Briefing

PRESS RELEASE | 18 APRIL 2018

The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town (SCCT) and Somali Association of South Africa (SASA) remain deeply concerned regarding the misleading nature of yesterday’s media statement issued by the Department of Home Affairs regarding the opening of a fully functional Refugee Reception Office in Cape Town. The statement reads in part that ‘the Department of Home Affairs has no intention to disregard the judicial directive and we will duly respect the judgement. In this regard, we have commenced with plans to comply with the order.’ Unfortunately, the Department has yet to comply with any aspect of the order, and it is misleading to state otherwise.

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) found the Department’s decision to close the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office (CTRRO) to new applications for asylum be ‘substantively unlawful and irrational’ and ordered the Department to re-open and maintain a fully functional Refugee Reception Office in the Cape Town metropolitan area by 31 March 2018; it further ordered the Department to report monthly on its progress in complying with the order.

To date, the CTRRO remains closed to new asylum applicants and the Department has failed to file any reports on its progress.

While we welcome the Department’s engagement on the matter, and recognise the significant logistical and practical task at hand, we would like to stress that the deadline of 31 March 2018 was set by the SCA in September 2017. The Constitutional Court’s refusal to hear the appeal was communicated in December 2017. As the Department has failed to re-open the office before the 31 March deadline, or submit progress reports on its plans and progress towards re-opening, the Department has not complied with the order.

By flouting the deadlines set by the SCA, the Department cannot claim to ‘uphold its constitutional obligation to those in need of protection from any form of persecution’. The lack of adherence to the SCA judgement, and the ongoing ambiguity around the re-opening of the CTRRO, is but the latest example in a pattern of disregard for judicial processes. The Port Elizabeth RRO was similarly closed unlawfully by the Department in 2011 as confirmed by the SCA in 2015. In that case, the SCA also ordered the facility to be re-opened in 2015; despite this judgment, and the harm the closures have caused for many refugees, the Port Elizabeth RRO also remains closed today.

These judgments have shown how the Department has crippled the asylum system by unlawfully closing RROs for ulterior purposes and subsequently implementing restrictive policies. Currently in Cape Town, the Department is now issuing asylum seekers with expired permits with administrative fines for not renewing their permits, yet it has been the Department who was refusing to renew these permits unlawfully. This conduct exemplifies the barriers constructed by the Department and the difficulties asylum seekers have faced in recent years.

The continued closure of the CTRRO has had a detrimental impact on the refugee community in Cape Town as well as the integrity of the asylum process. Denying newcomer asylum seekers access to documentation denies access to their basic rights, and creates conditions where vulnerable asylum seekers can be exploited. We are speaking with our legal representatives, the Legal Resources Centre, to find the best solution to ensure the orders are adhered to and that asylum seekers are able to access the Cape Town RRO as soon as possible.

We recall the words of Judge Ponnan who remarked in the Port Elizabeth RRO closure judgment that:

We remain concerned about the non-compliance by the Department and then stating to comply with international conventions when orders of the court have been ignored. We believe that a government departments must be held to a higher standard and call on the Department begin a transparent process to re-open both the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth RROs in line with the orders of the SCA, the Refugees Act, and the Constitution.

For more information, please contact:
Miranda Madikane (SCCT)
mmadikane@scalabrini.org.za
021 465 6433

Corey Johnson (SCCT)
corey@scalabrini.org.za
021 465 6433

Abdikadir Mohamed (SASA)
sasawc@gmail.com
021 917 273

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Cape Town Press Release Home Affairs Fails to Abide by Supreme Court of Appeal Order

Press Release | Home Affairs fails to abide by Supreme Court of Appeal Order

PRESS RELEASE | 4 APRIL 2018

THE DEPARTMENT OF HOME AFFAIRS FAILS TO ABIDE BY SUPREME COURT OF APPEAL ORDER:

CAPE TOWN REFUGEE RECEPTION OFFICE REMAINS CLOSED

The Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town (SCCT) and the Somali Association of South Africa (SASA)
are disappointed that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has failed to re-open the Cape
Town Refugee Reception Office (RRO), as ordered by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in
September 2017.

The SCA found the decision to close the Cape Town RRO ‘substantively unlawful and irrational’
and required the Department to re-open and maintain a fully functional RRO in the Cape Town
metropolitan area by 31 March 2018, and to report monthly on its progress in complying with
the order. To date, the Cape Town RRO remains closed to new asylum applicants, and DHA has
failed to file any reports on its progress. Along with SASA, SCCT is consulting with their legal
partner, the Legal Resources Centre, to ensure the order is implemented and that asylum
seekers are able to utilise a fully-functional RRO in Cape Town. The refugee protection system
is now characterised more for its creation of undocumented asylum seekers than by its primary
goal: to identify and provide protection to refugees.

We are concerned as this failure to adhere to the rule of law is occurring as the asylum system
collapses, driven in large part by DHA’s unlawful closures of RROs and associated policies. Since
the closures, pressure has increased at the remaining RROs and the system has a backlog of
appeal hearings suffering huge backlogs and delays. These delays mean that asylum seekers
will take years to navigate the asylum process and due to the closure of urban RROs, are forced
to travel long distances repeatedly in order have their permits extended and their asylum
applications adjudicated. Since the Cape Town RRO closure was found to be unlawful, asylum
seekers with permits from other RROs can now access the Cape Town RRO but asylum seekers
continue to struggle to renew their documentation.

We will communicate further information as it becomes available. For more information,
please contact:

Miranda Madikane (SCCT)
mmadikane@scalabrini.org.za
021 465 6433

Corey Johnson (SCCT)
corey@scalabrini.org.za
021 465 6433

Abdikadir Mohamed (SASA)
sasawc@gmail.com
021 917 273