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Backlog in Asylum Seeker System Under the Spotlight

March 11, 2021

Department of Home Affairs

The home affairs department has entered into a partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) designed to eliminate the backlog in the asylum seeker system over the next four years.

The home affairs minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, announced this in a speech at the signing ceremony with the UNHCR yesterday.

According to the minister, the agreement “underlines South Africa’s continued commitment to offering protection to people who genuinely need it as they seek refuge from persecution in their home countries”.

The minister emphasized that government aims to modernize South Africa’s immigration laws by strengthening the system and improving processes.

The Refugee Appeal Authority of SA (RAASA), an independent statutory administrative tribunal tasked with ensuring that appeal cases are dealt with efficiently, effectively and in an unbiased manner, recently declared that, as of the 2019/20 financial year, the backlog stood at more than 153 000.

The minister pointed out that the legislation has been changed so that all members of the RAASA are now required to be legally trained.

The legal requirement that each case be heard by a quorum of three of the RAASA’s five members has also been amended so that each member can now hear a case individually and only complex cases require a quorum.

As part of the agreement, over the next four years, the UNHCR will make available US$9.6 million or around R147 million to RAASA and technical support to eliminate the backlog.

“This money will help to employ 36 RAASA members who will be appointed and trained over the next six months. A portion of the money has been set aside to assist to acquire IT tools the team will need to undertake the task”, the minister said.

The department also plans to provide administrative support to RAASA to ensure that cases are researched and prepared properly before they are heard.

The minister also indicated that technology will be used more to stream processes and enhance interaction with applicants.