Home Affairs MPs concerned about reports of 'criminal elements' at Pretoria refugee office

The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs said it remained concerned about reported criminal elements allegedly continuing to operate outside the Desmond Tutu Refugee office in Pretoria.

The committee visited the centre on Friday to assess progress made since the launch of the automated asylum system in 2017.

It said on Saturday that it would give a directive to Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba and other ministers within the security cluster to urgently find solutions to the "criminal challenges" faced at the office.

Committee chairperson Hlomani Chauke said they received reports that security around the precinct had not improved, and that some officials were involved in alleged crimes occurring at or near the office.

He added that there were also concerns that there were allegations that people were also mugged in full view of police and nothing was done.

"It is unacceptable that the South African Police Service and metro police are alleged to be contributing to the challenges around the centre," Chauke said of the reports they received.

Chauke said the committee hoped that engagement at a ministerial level would aid assistance in resolving the issues faced by the refugee office.

Corruption allegations

In June, DA Gauteng leader John Moody conducted an oversight visit at the centre. This is after he said he received allegations of corruption from home affairs officials who work at the centre.

At the time, several foreign nationals, speaking on condition of anonymity detailed how people "hang around" the centre to rob them. They also "forced" them to pay a sum of money before they were allowed inside, he charged.

The committee said it would continue to urge for harsher action against officials who were found to be colluding with syndicates to undermine the refugee system, Chauke said.

All challenges identified would be escalated to the security cluster level to ensure that a collaborative clampdown was implemented, he added.

With regards to the new system, the committee welcomed the impact of the automated system on the processing of applicants at the offices.

"There seems to be a massive improvement in the process as a result of automating the system. The infusion of technology into the system should be strengthened even further to reinforce the current advances," Chauke finished.

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