The South African government is turning its back on refugees, nonprofit organisation African Diaspora Forum (ADF) chairperson Marc Gbaffou said at the launch of the ‘Project Lokisa: Asylum at a price’ report in Pretoria on Tuesday.
The report, compiled by nonprofit organisation Corruption Watch and partners Wits Law Clinic and ADF, aims to reveal “the rife corruption at Home Affairs offices”, with a particular focus on the Marabastad branch in Pretoria.
According to the report, since 2012, Corruption Watch has received 314 reports from foreign nationals about extortion, threats and solicitation from government officials.
The report further states that Home Affairs officials have demanded bribes from refugees to issue documents they are entitled to under law.
Gbaffou said it was disturbing to see government, which they were usually proud of, treating migrants inhumanly.
“South Africa has one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world. The Constitution is just a piece of paper unless it is implemented. South Africa belongs to all who live in it,” he said.
Gbaffou said South Africa was comprised of migrants who also wanted to contribute to the economy of the country.
“We appeal to the government of South Africa to give us that piece of paper that would give us rights,” he stated.
Corruption Watch chairperson Mavuso Msimang said corruption was prevalent at the public sector level.
“People entrusted to look after money for taxpayers are stealing. Stealing that money is like stealing food from the poor or removing the roof from over their heads,” said Msimang.
He said it was extremely disappointing that Department of Home Affairs (DHA) did not attend the launch of the report and engage with the organisations and refugees.
“To be insensitive about such issues means that you are not a caring government,” the former director-general in the DHA said.
Msimang further added that during his employment there the department had failed to combat corruption because money was used to tighten internal security measures instead of implementing measures that would better the services.
“We need to drum it into people who are in power that corruption is serious. We need more informed services. Not even Donald Trump would stop Mexicans entering the US. We need more progressive policies because it is good for the country. It is sad that South Africa is in this situation,” he said.
Msimang added that Corruption Watch needed to engage government to ensure that corruption against foreign visitors was combated.
Corruption Watch head of legal and investigations Leanne Govindsamy said corruption against refugees at DHA offices affected everyone and was a human rights issue.
She said fighting corruption was always difficult because the DHA did not want to cooperate.
In recent times, three corruption cases have been opened against three officials from the Marabastad Home Affairs branch with evidence of them accepting bribes, however no action has been taken against them.
Click here to access the Corruption Watch Project Lokisa: Asylum at a price report