Immigration lawyers have accused the Department of Home Affairs of being in contempt of a High Court order after the department withdrew an instruction allowing asylum seekers and refugees to apply for permanent residence without giving up their asylum or refugee status, and to apply for temporary residence without a valid passport.
“The effect of this is huge, as asylum seekers are struggling to get married and register the birth of their children with South African spouses,” the Forum of Immigration Practitioners said.
Another effect was that asylum seekers who did not have temporary residence could not open a bank account, FIPSA said. This made them vulnerable to crooks who preyed on them because they carried cash.
The directive signed by Mkuseli Apleni on 3 February 2016 explains that the Department believes that asylum seekers (who are yet to be granted refugee status) should not have their status changed, for example given permanent or temporary residence, until they are certified as refugees. Following this logic, the Department has withdrawn a circular of 2008 which had allowed asylum seekers to apply for permanent residence.