Speech by the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Fatima Chohan on the occasion of the department's Budget Vote National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Cape Town
7 Jun 2012
Chairperson of the NCOP Mninwa Mahlangu,
Minister of Home Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma,
Chairperson of the Select Committee on Social Services Rachel Rasmeni,
Honourable Members of the National Council of Provinces,
Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission Advocate Pansy Tlakula,
Chairperson of the Film and Publication Board Thoko Mpumlwana,
CEO of the Film and Publication Board Yoliswa Makhasi,
CEO of the Government Printing Works Dr Tony Mbewu,
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great privilege for me to address this house today.
I stand here to give progress on matters of Asylum Seeker and Refugee Management, legal services and Film and Publications Board and to give an outline of the Department of Home Affairs’ plans in the 2012/2013 financial year.
Asylum seeker and refugee management is important for the Department of Home Affairs. This is because we are charged with the responsibility of providing enabling documents to those fleeing from persecution in their country of origin in order to afford them sanctuary and to play our part in developing a better and safer world.
It is significant to note that we are talking about this critical issue of asylum seeker and refugee management during the time in which peoples of the world will be marking World Refugee Day on 20 June 2012. Since 2001, this day is commemorated annually in order to draw attention to the growing number and plight of refugees throughout the world.
For us World Refugee Day must serve to promote an understanding among our communities of the reasons why people seek sanctuary.
Like all countries, South Africa has an obligation to scrutinise asylum claims and turn down those which are not justified. Our asylum seeker and refugee management system has been under tremendous pressure due to the fact that South Africa, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, has the largest number of asylum seekers in the world.
This is in part due to economic immigrants using this as a route to regularise their stay in the country. This trend causes a great strain on our bureaucratic capacity and hampers our efforts to assist genuine asylum seekers and refugees. As a consequence the adjudication of these claims tended to take long and in some cases years to finalise.
We have embarked on a plan to address this complex challenge.
We introduced new structures and processes to improve the quality and efficiency of our adjudication of claims. In this regard, I am pleased to report that since September 2011, the turnaround time and quality of adjudication has greatly improved on all new asylum applications. The appointment of permanent members to our Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs (SCRA), at some of our centres has resulted in decisions on new applications being made within three months.
As part of a regional approach towards asylum seeker and refugee management, we are engaging in bilateral and multilateral cooperation with neighbouring countries through which asylum seekers transit. As a signatory to the international protocol on refugees, we join other nations in our obligation to guarantee the safety of asylum seekers.
In a globalised world, no single country in the world can effectively manage asylum seeker and refugee issues alone. We therefore are and will be engaging our neighbours to seek a common approach in relation to asylum seekers who traverse through many safe countries in order to arrive in South Africa.
On a matter relating to a specific group of refugees, the department will this week engage with Angolan refugees in the country as part of a plan to implement the Cessation of Angolan Refugees which will come into effect on 30 June 2012.
Our legal services unit is making significant strides in order to give effect to the department’s mandate to provide services in an effective and efficient manner. In this regard the unit is in the process of finalising regulations to a number of Amended Acts, namely the South African Citizenship Amendment Act of 2010, the Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Act of 2010, Refugees Act of 2011 and the Immigration Amendment Act of 2011. With regards to civil litigation brought against or by the department, with the exception of cases emanating from Lindela, the department has won 91% of its cases in court during the 2011/12 financial year.
We will in the future strengthen our capacity and expertise to deal even more effectively with litigation. To this end we are in the process of filling critical vacancies in this current financial year. It is envisaged that approximately 11 posts will be filled during the 2012/13 financial year.
Last but not least, as you know the Film and Publications Board (FPB) is a statutory institution of the Department of Home Affairs.
The FPB's constitutional mandate is to provide our 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 prematurely exposed to adult content and experiences which have been shown by research to be harmful to children.
As such the FPB gives effect to the constitutional rights to the freedoms of expression and choice as well as the protection of children’s rights.
Taken in the context of the campaign around the Child Protection Week which has once again highlighted the horrors that our children are subjected to, we can appreciate the seriousness of the work of the FPB to create a safe and secure environment for children.
The FPB attaches age restrictions, and content warning to all film, magazines and gaming material distributed in the country. But providing a secure environment for children is a collective responsibility. Without parental supervision, these restrictions cannot in themselves protect children. As part of this work, the FPB has successfully completed a nation-wide consultation on the Classification Guidelines for such restrictions, which are to be gazetted in December 2012.
Lastly, in the last financial year, the FPB has implemented outreach campaigns across the country on the role of FPB and on programmes focusing on cyber-safety as well as public education. This crucial work will continue in the 2012/2013 financial year.
Let me end by thanking the Minister of Home Affairs for her guidance and wisdom, the honourable members of the Portfolio Committee and Select Committee on Home Affairs for their support as well as the officials from the department and FPB in assisting us during the year to ensure we deliver on our constitutional mandate.
I thank you!
Issued by: Department of Home Affairs
7 Jun 2012
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