Long delays at Home Affairs mean refugees are missing out on social grants

Legal Resources Centre says these delays are “incredibly worrying”

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Refugees in Limpopo say they have been struggling to renew their expired documents at the local Department of Home Affairs offices. These delays have far reaching implications for them. Photo: Bernard Chiguvare

  • Refugees living in Limpopo say they have not been able to renew their status for a number of years at the Department of Home Affairs.
  • As a result they cannot get social grants for their children.
  • The Legal Resources Centre says people not being able to renew permits at Home Affairs is “incredibly worrying”.

Refugees struggling to renew their expired documents at the Department of Home Affairs say the delays are having far-reaching implications for their survival.

GroundUp spoke to several refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, now living in Musina, Limpopo, who say they can no longer access social grants because their permits have expired.

Iyoga Molongi has three children, aged 13, 7 and 3. He first applied for the child support grant for his middle child in 2016. The eldest child was still in the DRC at the time. The grant stopped in December 2016, just four months later. He was told it was because his document was outdated.

“I had to visit the Musina SASSA offices to find out why the January child grant was not paid. I was referred to the Musina Refugee Reception Office for verification of my refugee status and my ID. The office then referred me to Pretoria. This surprised me as all my paperwork was in Musina,” said Molongi.

He said he had spent years trying to get help from advocacy groups like Lawyers for Human Rights but they too had not been able to get his case resolved. Now the 50-year-old father said he is barely making ends meet as a general worker at a car sales business in Beitbridge.

In response to our questions, Raymond Manamela, a senior manager at the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), advised Molongi to return to a SASSA office to apply for the grants.

Manamela says the law does allow for “alternative proof for any of the supporting documents for an application for a social grant”. These include, where applicable, a sworn statement or affidavit in a format prescribed by the agency. “SASSA will continue grant payment for 90 days while the applicant tries to acquire the necessary documents,” he said.

Another refugee, Bahati Maripbah, who lives in Burgersfort, also said she has not been assisted by Home Affairs for years, and as a result has lost her children’s social grants.

“We now live in one room with our four children. My husband and I get very little money from working odd jobs,” said Maripbah.

In 2017 Maripbah successfully applied for refugee status and child grants. SASSA paid the grants for six months until her document expired in 2018. “I tried to renew my refugee status in 2018 but I got stuck until 2020 when the country went into lockdown. As lockdown restrictions were lifted, DHA instructed us to renew our refugee status online. We are really not used to this,” said Maripbah.

Cecile van Schalkwyk from the Legal Resources Centre said: “Delays in renewing permits at Home Affairs are incredibly worrying. This has been an ongoing problem for years. It affects every aspect of the person’s life.”

Scalabrini’s James Chapman said they had about ten cases between February and March this year alone. “These cases, from the Western Cape, were all resolved,” he said.

Kasse Kassa, a leader from the Ethiopian community living in Limpopo, said they are aware of at least 10 people in the same predicament. When asked why their members had opted to get help from any advocacy groups or organisation, he said there was no point “because the cases will not be resolved”.

Questions sent to the Department of Home Affairs received no response.

TOPICS:  Immigration Social Grants

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