Home » Posts tagged "PolicyJusticeFreedom"

Corruption plagues South Africa’s asylum system

A Zimbabwean asylum seeker joins an early morning queue outside the refugee reception office in Cape Town to renew her permit

OXFORD, 22 July 2015 (IRIN) - In South Africa, asylum seekers and refugees in need of documentation often have no choice but to pay for it. So says a new report exposing how corruption and bribery have permeated nearly every level of the country’s asylum system: from border crossings, to queues outside refugee reception offices, to what takes place inside those offices.

The report, carried out by the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, together with Lawyers for Human Rights, surveyed more than 900 respondents, the majority of them asylum seekers, and found that nearly a third had experienced corruption at some stage in the process.

“It is corruption everywhere,” said one respondent interviewed outside Marabastad Refugee Reception Office (RRO) in Pretoria, which according to the report is the most corrupt of the country’s five RROs. “They ask for money. You pay, but they don’t help you. If you can give R2,000 to R5,000 (US$162 to $404) you can get [refugee] status.”

South Africa is a major destination for migrants and asylum seekers from all over the continent. In 2014, it received over 86,000 asylum applications, according to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, more than twice the number received in the UK. But just under one in 10 of those applications were approved – the lowest approval rate in the world. 

Previous studies have documented the many inefficiencies of a system that has struggled to cope with the sheer volume of applications, but until now reports of corruption were mainly anecdotal.
Speaking to IRIN in 2013, an interpreter employed by the Department of Home Affairs at Marabastad said that asylum seekers were routinely asked for money in exchange for a positive outcome on their applications. 

“No one gets a permit without money,” said a refugee IRIN interviewed queuing outside Marabastad in 2012.

The ACMS report, entitled Queue Here for Corruption: Measuring Irregularities in South Africa’s Asylum System, suggests that corruption sometimes begins at border crossings – 13 percent of respondents said that border officials asked them for money – but that it is more prevalent during asylum application and renewal processes that usually require multiple visits to an RRO.  

Twenty-two percent of respondents said they were asked for money while queuing outside an RRO, usually by security guards or brokers claiming to have connections with staff inside. At Marabastad, more than half of the respondents experienced corruption in the queue, and 31 percent reported being asked for money in exchange for being assisted once inside the office.

Not everyone can afford to pay bribes. Some respondents, particularly those trying to access services at Marabastad, failed to even get inside and had to return several times. Asylum seekers unable to renew their permits before they expire are liable for fines, a system that opens up another opportunity for corruption, with fines often being paid directly to RRO staff, according to the report.

“The multiple entry points of corruption increase the risk that asylum seekers will remain undocumented and at risk of arrest and detention… processes [that] themselves create multiple opportunities for corruption,” notes the report, which asserts that corruption has flourished in South Africa’s asylum system partly as a result of the government’s decision to close down several RROs in recent years despite continued demand for their services.

New asylum applications are now only accepted at three RROs: in Pretoria, Musina (near the border with Zimbabwe) and Durban.

A crowd forms outside the refugee reception office in Musina

 “A situation in which demand exceeds capacity creates opportunities for corruption. It also risks creating an asylum system that offers protection only to those with the financial means to purchase it,” says the report.

Very few respondents attempted to report their experiences of corruption, and those who did were sometimes told to go back to their own countries. The Department of Home Affairs’ counter-corruption unit sometimes responds to individual allegations of corruption but is dependent on asylum seekers to provide details without fear of reprisals.

“I think the department [of home affairs] takes the view that it’s a few bad apples in the system, and it’s basically the migrants themselves who are instigating the corruption, and I think this report shows it’s more of a systemic, structural problem that they need to address,” said Roni Amit, a senior researcher with ACMS, and the author of the report.

She told IRIN that while South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs has often characterised virtually all asylum seekers as economic migrants, its failure to root out corruption has probably resulted in more economic migrants abusing the asylum system while those in genuine need of protection are often unable to access it.

The home affairs department couldn’t be reached for comment, but speaking to local newspaper Business Day on Wednesday, the department’s spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said the report’s criticisms of the counter-corruption unit were “disingenuous” as it had exposed syndicates, not just individuals.

Tshwete pointed to the large numbers of asylum applications that South Africa receives relative to EU countries with more resources. “The context is very important,” he said, adding that the department was serious about combatting corruption.

Amit said that attempts to arrange a meeting with the home affairs department to present the findings of the report had not received a response.


Read More

Deadly Heat Wave Strikes India

Deadly heat waves are a regular occurrence in India. But this is much worse than in years past. “At least 800 people have died in a major heatwave that has swept across India, melting roads in New Delhi as temperatures neared 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit)… ‘The state government has taken up education programmes through television and other media to tell people not to venture into the outside without a cap, to drink water and other measures,’ said P. Tulsi Rani, special commissioner for disaster management in the state. “We have also requested NGOs and government organisations to open up drinking water camps so that water will be readily available for all the people in the towns.” (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Q8tVgO)

Quote of the Day: “This is not the year of the child but the year of fear, with 2015 already the worst year since 1945 for children being displaced, the worst year for children becoming refugees, the worst year for children seeing their schools attacked.” – former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1PKwIlt)


Fighting in and around South Sudan’s Leer town has disrupted the hunger-hit region’s crucial planting season, and residents returning to the town urgently need food, water and medical help, aid workers said on Tuesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1IYdlBa)

Burundi’s government on Tuesday condemned mounting diplomatic pressure over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial bid to stand for a third consecutive term, signalling it would not bow to international criticism. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1IYcGQn)

An “alarming spike” in suicide bombings by girls and women used by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria has children in danger of being seen as potential threats, the U.N. children’s agency said Tuesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Q8usiN)

A cholera outbreak raging among Burundian refugees in Tanzania has slowed significantly with no new deaths reported in the past five days, the United Nations said Tuesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Q8uqHI)

A Bangladeshi peacekeeper was shot dead and another wounded, the United Nations said Tuesday, in the second attack in days in Mali’s capital on what is considered the world’s most dangerous UN mission. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1IYdoNo)

A crippling strike over fuel that brought Nigeria to a near standstill was called off “in the national interest”, a union leader said on Tuesday, as the country limped back normal. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Q8ueIh)

Pioneering HIV/AIDS research at the Africa Centre in Mtubatuba, South Africa, is saving lives and changing our understanding of the resilient virus. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1PKwElv)

Islamist militants from Somalia attacked two police patrols in neighboring Kenya on Tuesday, triggering a gun battle in a rural area hit by a string of cross-border raids, both sides said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1RkNKUy)

The impact of the drought in Southern Africa is looking particularly serious for Zimbabwe, where the economy has been struggling for five years to recover from a catastrophic recession that was marked by billion percent hyperinflation and widespread food shortages. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1HIyqzq)

More than 100 million condoms were distributed in Zimbabwe last year, a huge increase on previous years, indicating that more people were practising safe sex in the battle against HIV, authorities said Tuesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1RkNDYY)

African Union observers said on Tuesday that Ethiopia’s parliamentary election held on Sunday was credible except for a few irregularities, but the opposition dismissed the vote as marred by violations including ballot box theft. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1RkNG7f)


The U.N. food agency is calling for a humanitarian pause in fighting in Syria to let farmers harvest their crops and get them to market. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IYcIaO)

Iraqi forces have launched a counteroffensive to retake areas of Anbar province, including Ramadi, recently captured by fighters from the ISIS. (Al Jazeera http://bit.ly/1dvKEPi)

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian went on trial on espionage charges behind closed doors in Tehran on Tuesday, 10 months after he was arrested at his home and imprisoned, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. (Reuters http://reut.rs/1dvLYSh)


UN rights experts have criticised South Korea for requiring that foreign English teachers have a negative HIV test to “check values and morality” in order to receive a visa to work. (ABC Australiahttp://ab.co/1HuK8YR)

An international gathering about the plight of Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya Muslims boasts a star-studded cast, with three Nobel Peace Prize laureates among those calling on the world to wake up to the unfolding tragedy. But fellow winner and pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi will not be among them. She wasn’t invited. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Q8urLu)

Nepal banned children from traveling without parents or approved guardians on Tuesday in an unprecedented move to deter human traffickers who authorities fear are targeting vulnerable families after last month’s devastating earthquake. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Q8uuac)

The International Monetary Fund no longer believes China’s tightly controlled currency is undervalued, an IMF official said Tuesday, a stance that might help Beijing in its wrangling with Washington over exchange rate controls. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IYdjtc)

Russia’s rights ombudsman has slammed a controversial law approved by President Vladimir Putin that allows the authorities to ban international NGOs deemed “undesirable.” (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HIygIh)

Malaysian police forensic teams, digging with hoes and shovels, on Tuesday began pulling out bodies from shallow graves found in abandoned jungle camps where an inter-governmental body said hundreds of victims of human traffickers may be buried. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1RkNKny)

The Americas

A commander of Colombia’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, was among five rebels killed in a bombing raid, the Colombian military says. (BBC http://bbc.in/1cgkOx5)

Venezuela’s public ombudsman denied that jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was on hunger strike or in solitary confinement, saying he “had lunch with his children” the day before. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Huj4sO)

Rescue workers searched on Tuesday for 12 people missing in Texas after torrential rains slammed the state and Oklahoma during the Memorial Day weekend, killing seven people and causing floods that destroyed homes and swept away bridges. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1HIyjnq)

The thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba has led to a stunning 36 percent increase in visits by Americans to the island, including thousands who are flying into Cuba from third countries like Mexico in order to sidestep U.S. restrictions on tourism. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HIynn8)

…and the rest

The battle to eliminate extreme poverty will require rich western nations to step up their financial help and spend at least half their aid budgets in the world’s poorest countries, a leading development campaign group said on Tuesday. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1cgkBKn)

Participants in the European Union’s carbon market expect average prices to rise for the first time in four years, an annual survey published by the International Emissions Trading Association showed on Tuesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1IYdjcL)

The world’s leading migration group is urging the European Union to accept far more asylum seekers than the 20,000 it has planned to take under a new EU scheme to resettle people in need of protection. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Q8utmP)


Global Dispatches Podcast episode 66: The Nicholas Burns interview. http://bit.ly/1AvAx73

Why proposed WHO reforms aren’t enough to deal with the next epidemic (Monkey Cage http://wapo.st/1Huovry)

Here’s what’s missing in AfDB’s 1st gender equality index (Devex http://bit.ly/1PKFIqx)

The geek heretic (Chris Blattman http://bit.ly/1dv7Ywq)

How clamping down on tax avoidance can unlock billions for development (Guardian http://bit.ly/1cgkwGA)

Tobacco Taxes Too Effective to Overlook in Financing for Development (IPS http://bit.ly/1esa4NX)

The limits of debunking only the pseudoscience of race (Africa is a Country http://bit.ly/1FBwWDm)

Joe Hockey on aid on Q&A (DevPolicy http://bit.ly/1FBwYLt)

Why EU ministers must endorse aid targets (Devex http://bit.ly/1dv8drk)



Read More