LHR and Sonke Gender Justice to Challenge Failure to Re-Open Cape Town Refugee Reception Office

On 12 May 2021, the Western Cape High Court will hear the matter of Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town (“Scalabrini”) v Department of Home Affairs (“DHA”) with regard to the DHA’s consistent failure to comply with court orders to reopen the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office (“CTRRO”). Scalabrini seeks to compel the re-opening of the CTRRO, which has been closed since 2017. Lawyers for Human Rights (“LHR”) represents Sonke Gender Justice (“Sonke”) in the matter, which will make submissions on the gendered impact that the continued closure of the CTRRO has had on asylum seekers.

In particular, Sonke will argue that the continued closure of the CTRRO has resulted in increased exposure to racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia for women, children and members of the LGBTQ+ asylum seeker and refugee communities, all of which impugn the constitutional right to dignity of these groups.

These arguments are particularly poignant given the “second pandemic” of gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa, as well as the unique reputation of the City of Cape Town as an LGBTQI+ friendly, African City. Many LGBTIQ+ asylum seekers, especially those fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation, come to Cape Town believing that they will be free from such persecution. The prolonged closure of the CTRRO means that access to safe haven in Cape Town is significantly reduced. 

Sonke originally faced challenges by the DHA in gaining admission as amicus curiae in the matter. Amongst other things, the DHA argued that Sonke’s submissions with regards to the intersectional burdens that women, children and members of the LGBTIQ+ communityshare were of no relevance to the case. The Court in response highlighted the DHA’s “over-simplistic analyses of the issues in dispute”, and further confirmed that the overlap of Sonke’s interests with those of the first applicant did not prevent Sonke from placing factual and legal issues before the Court concerning the impact on women, children and LGBTQI+ persons.

For more information, please contact: 

Lawyers for Human Rights:

Charné Tracey
Telephone: +27 (0) 11 3391960

Sonke Gender Justice:

Kayan Leung
078 302 7887