The Cape Town RRO, and urban RROs in general, are critical components of South Africa’s asylum system. Without them, access to asylum procedures is restricted, family units are separated, the adjudication process is delayed, and asylum seekers are unable to keep their documentation valid.
The closure of three of the six fully functional RROs has made access to the asylum system extremely difficult for many asylum seekers. With the closure of the Cape Town RRO, previously the second busiest RRO in the country, access at the remaining RROs has become more difficult and those RROs have struggled to provide services.
These challenges have prolonged an already lengthy refugee status adjudication process into one that takes many years. The systemic challenges and poor-decision in the refugee status process mean that individuals are routinely denied refugee status without proper consideration of their asylum claim. This in turn means the appeal process is critical for refugees to attain refugee status, but the high rate of first-instance rejections means the Refugee Appeal Board is overburdened with cases and currently has a backlog of at least 130,000 cases.
With the urban RRO closures, asylum seekers are often forced to take regular – and sometimes dangerous – journeys to extend their asylum seeker permits. This leads to a situation in which many asylum seekers’ permits expire, leaving them undocumented and in a vulnerable position. This makes the administration of the asylum system more difficult and adds to the delays and backlogs mentioned above.
In short, given the difficulties asylum seekers experience in attaining refugee status, the Cape Town RRO is critical to allowing them to live in stability and dignity before they attain refugee status.