Department of Home Affair’s media statement regarding the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office (RRO) disingenuous

Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) and partner organisations involved in the #OpenTheRRO campaign, remain deeply concerned after the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) claimed to be complying with the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgement ordering them to re-open the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office (CTRRO) by 31 March 2018, in a media statement released on Tuesday, 17 April 2018.  Instead of complying with the court order, DHA is pretending to be compliant when they are not, and attempting to evade responsibility by blaming the Department of Public Works for their own inaction.

In September 2017, the SCA ordered the Department of Home Affairs to open a fully-functioning CTRRO for new asylum applications, citing the Department’s decision to close the second busiest Refugee Reception Office in South Africa as “irrational and unlawful”. The court action was brought by the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, the Somali Association of South Africa and others and were represented by the Legal Resources Centre. The Court gave the Department until 31 March 2018 to re-open the CTRRO.  It also instructed the Department to provide regular progress reports on how its preparations towards re-opening were advancing.

The Department has failed to provide any progress updates to date and the CTRRO remains closed to new asylum applicants which means that new applicants in Cape Town have to travel to Pretoria, Musina or Durban to regularize their stay in South Africa. As such, the statement reading “the Department of Home Affairs has no intention to disregard the judicial directive and we will duly respect the judgement” and that they have “commenced with plans to comply with the order” is disingenuous. The Department had similarly been directed by the SCA to reopen a fully functional RRO in Port Elizabeth by 1 July 2015, and Home Affairs continues to be in breach of that order.

By failing to comply with these court orders, the DHA has not only shown a brazen disregard for South Africa’s judicial processes, which are the cornerstone of our democracy, but also its apathy towards the plight of asylum seekers and refugees. This points towards an unresponsive department and certainly not one which claims to “continue [to] uphold [their] constitutional obligation to those in need of protection from any form of persecution”.

Passing responsibility onto the Department of Public Works, and implicating them in the delay in Cape Town, shows the sheer lack of accountability and transparency on part of the Department of Home Affairs. We reject this reasoning.

The Department is currently, and remains, in breach of the SCA order and is actively defying the rule of law.

We call on the Department of Home Affairs to fully comply with the SCA court order, by showing greater transparency and accountability by releasing their progress reports, and by setting out clear timelines on when a fully functional CTRRO will be respected.

Moreover, we call on the South African Human Rights Commission to exert its constitutional powers to rigorously monitor and ensure that the department complies with the court order, and that the CTRRO extends all available services as per the Refugees Act to new-comers, to asylum-seekers who applied at other RROs, and to asylum-seekers who wish to join their families in Cape Town, and that migrant rights are fully respected.


Marike Keller
Sonke Gender Justice – Policy Development and Advocacy Specialist
021 423 7088 | 083 259 6573

Micheline Minani Muzaneza
Sonke Gender Justice – Refugee and Health Rights programme Senior Trainer
021 423 7088 | 078 188 7867

Karen Robertson
Sonke Gender Justice – Media liaison
021 423 7088 | 076 944 9873


  • ALPS Resilience
  • Adonis Musati Project
  • United Family
  • South African Jewish Board of Deputies
  • ProBono.Org
  • Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town
  • UCT Refugee Rights Unit
  • Lawyers for Human Rights