Home Affairs ‘studying’ ConCourt ruling on PE Refugee Reception Office

The Department of Home Affairs on Wednesday “noted” its unsuccessful appeal in the Constitutional Court against a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruling on the re-opening of the Port Elizabeth Refugee Reception Office.

“We are in the process of studying the Constitutional Court ruling and‚ in this regard‚ we will make an announcement in due course‚” the statement said.

“To this end‚ we wish to reaffirm our respect for the judicial system and reassure that any decision taken by the department will have to be in line with the Constitution while taking operational implications of the ruling into consideration.”

The department lost in its second bid to get the Constitutional Court to hear its appeal against the SCA judgment which ordered the department to reopen the refugee reception office in Port Elizabeth.

This means the department must adhere to the SCA ruling of March and reopen the office. The department would have three months to do so from the date of the order.

In April‚ the department filed its first application for leave to appeal against the SCA order with the Constitutional Court. That application was dismissed in August after the department failed to meet the June 26 deadline to file its written submissions.

In October‚ home affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni filed another application for the reconsideration of the August order.

In his affidavit‚ Apleni said it would be in the interests of justice for the order to be reconsidered and that the circumstances of the case were exceptional.

Apleni said to the extent that the application was dismissed solely on the basis of the late filing of the department’s written submissions‚ this had the consequence of depriving the department of its right of access to the court for the consideration of the merits of the matter.

The Constitutional Court passed the order dismissing the application for reconsideration on Monday.

The matter has its genesis in 2011 when the Somali Association of SA challenged Apleni’s decision of October 2011 to close the Port Elizabeth refugee reception office. The closure curtailed refugee services for the asylum-seeker population in and around the Eastern Cape.

Two high court decisions set aside Apleni’s decision and in March this year‚ the SCA also dismissed the department’s appeal. This prompted the department to approach the Constitutional Court to apply for leave to appeal.

Lawyers for Human Rights‚ which represented the association‚ welcomed the dismissal on Tuesday.

“What makes this outcome so significant is that this vulnerable population has finally been recognised. Asylum seekers are not entitled to any state assistance and are expected to find their own jobs and means of supporting themselves and their families‚” Lawyers for Human Rights attorney David Cote said.

The department was not immediately available for comment.

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