THIS is an open letter to the Refugee Reception Office, Department of Home Affairs (South Africa).
We have received several reports from Zimbabwean asylum-seekers that they have been issued with asylum-seeker’s permits by y
our offices which stipulate that they are not allowed to work and/or study in South Africa. The permits which were shown to us were issued in the week commencing on October 9 and all emanated from Rosettenville, Johannesburg.
Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) brings this anomalous issue to your attention in its standing as a non-profit organisation registered in South Africa whose mandate includes the protection and promotion of the human rights of Zimbabwean refugees. We submit that refugees are entitled to a means of survival and to education in their host countries in terms of international instruments including the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol and the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention as well as the South African Constitution and the Refugee Act as amended.
The prohibition to work and study for asylum-seekers is highly retrogressive as it also starkly contradicts the pro-refugee rights approach of the South African courts. The Cape High Court in the celebrated case of Wachenuka vs Department of Home Affairs in 2002 embraced the internationally recognised entitlement of refugees to self-sufficiency rights such as the right to work and to access education, even pending determination of their asylum-applications.
What we find to be most disconcerting is that such prohibitive permits were allegedly issued to Zimbabwean asylum-seekers only whilst asylum-seekers of other nationalities were not put under such restrictions during the same period. This, if confirmed, would clearly indicate an unconstitutional and unjustifiable segregatory policy against Zimbabwean asylum-seekers by your department.
In the circumstances, we are compelled to implore your good offices to immediately launch an in-depth investigation of these anomalies and to simultaneously retract the offensive permits replacing them with standard ones.
Human Rights Lawyer and
ZEF executive director.