Speech by the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Fatima Chohan, on the occasion of the Department’s Budget Vote at the National Assembly in Cape Town
25 Apr 2012
Your Excellency President Jacob Zuma
Your Excellency Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee Maggie Maunye
Members of the Portfolio Committee
Members of the Select Committee
Honourable Members of the National Assembly
Chairperson of the Film and Publication Board Thoko Mpumlwana
CEO of the Film and Publication Board Yoliswa Makhasi
Ladies and gentlemen
It is my privilege to follow in the footsteps of Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, after her presentation on the achievements, priorities and vision of the Department of Home Affairs.
My task here this evening is to elaborate on asylum seeker and refugee management, legal services and the Film and Publication Board (FPB).
Let me begin by stating that South Africa remains committed to our obligations in terms of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees. We do so because we are responsible members of the family of nations; and because we believe that affording protection to those fleeing from persecution in their countries of origin contributes ultimately to achieving a better and safer world for all.
However, South Africa faces serious challenges in adjudicating the claims of asylum seekers and extending assistance to those granted refugee status. A combination of circumstances has led to the widespread abuse of our asylum system, with a large number of economic migrants using the asylum process to circumvent the Immigration Act.
As a result South Africa has the largest number of individual asylum seekers in the world. In 2010, 180 000 people applied for asylum in South Africa. This unprecedented demand for asylum has overwhelmed the system and opened it to further abuse and as a consequence the adjudication of these applicants often took years to finalise, resulting in backlogs.
The non-encampment of asylum seekers in South Africa, whilst it is the most pragmatic option we have, opens many opportunities for abuse. However, we are looking at ways and means, including further amendments to the Refugees Act, to ensure that the policy on non-encampment is not abused.
The Department of Home Affairs has embarked on a three-pronged strategy to strengthen the management of asylum seekers:
The first strategy is to improve the processes by which the adjudication and review of claims is conducted. Except for offices in Pretoria, I am pleased to report that since September 2011, the turnaround time and quality of adjudication of new applications in the Durban, Musina and Cape Town refugee reception centres, have improved and status determinations are now made within three months. Our focus is now to ensure that the Pretoria offices also achieve these standards.
Our further challenge is to ensure that those individuals, whose applications for asylum have been rejected, are deported timeously. Measures to address this challenge are being investigated. Amongst others, discussions have been held with the International Organisation on Migration (IOM) on their possible assistance with voluntarily repatriation out of our refugee reception centres.
Our second strategy is to address the problem of corruption by working together with law enforcement and security agencies at national, provincial and local levels.
The third strategy being implemented is to engage in bilateral and multilateral cooperation with countries through which asylum seekers transit, with the focus on neighbouring states. In international law the principle is that asylum seekers should apply in the first safe country they enter. This principle requires a regional approach to be established and implemented effectively.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has declared a Cessation of Angolan Refugees which will come into effect on 30 June 2012. We will implement this according to UNHCR guidelines and through a collective regional approach.
The Legal Services Unit has made some significant strides in the past financial year. With regards to contracts, the appointment of two additional staff members during 2011/12 has resulted in the more efficient vetting of contracts to mitigate risks faced by the department.
The Legal Unit is also in the process of finalising regulations to a number of Amended Acts, including the Refugees and Immigration Amendment Acts of 2011.
With regards to civil litigation brought against the department, with the exception of cases emanating from Lindela, the department has won 42 out of 46 cases that were finalised during the 2011/12 financial year.
Lindela cases pose certain legal challenges. Due to a lack of cooperation from certain individuals and lengthy processes to verify the country of origin and status of individuals, it is not always possible to release deportees within 120 days as required by law. New and innovative solutions are needed to ensure that these processes are accelerated and to enable the department to be in compliance with the legislation.
With regard to contingent liabilities, the amount of potential claims against the department has been reduced significantly in the last year fromR6.2 billion to R1.3 billion this year.
The budget of the Department of Home Affairs also includes funding for the Film and Publication Board (FPB), which is tasked with providing society with information that will enable adults to make informed decisions on published material that they choose to view whilst at the same time protecting minors from being exposed to adult content. The FPB attaches age restrictions, and content warnings to all film, magazines and gaming material distributed in the country.
The role of the FPB should be understood in the context of giving content to our constitutional rights and also for its role in furthering the values of a caring society and a society that celebrates its diversity. This includes the right of children to be children and to be protected in their youth.
The restrictions placed on gaming material and other content should be regarded as a very serious issue, especially when we consider the recent mass killing in Norway where the killer of 77 people, Anders Breivik, reported that a computer game known as “The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare”, of which approximately 55 million copies have been sold already, helped him to condition himself for this shooting and bombing rampage. This example brings home the important role of the FPB in society today and that South Africans should be alive to the dangers posed to children by these modern forms of play.
The FPB has in the last financial year implemented outreach campaigns across the country on cyber-safety. This crucial work will continue in the 2012/13 financial year.
In this regard we are pleased to announce the commencement of the review of Classification Guidelines. Draft Classification Guidelines with be gazetted in December 2012. To this end the FPB is currently undertaking a public consultation process and the closing date for submissions has been extended to 16 May 2012.
Let me conclude by firstly thanking the Minister of Home Affairs for her guidance and direction, the honourable members of the Portfolio Committee and Select Committee on Home Affairs for their support in assisting us during the year to ensure we deliver on our constitutional mandate. We also wish to thank the Director-General and top management as well as the officials from the department and FPB for their professional conduct and dedication to serve the people of South Africa.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Home Affairs
25 Apr 2012
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