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High court rebukes Cape Town refugee centre

Source: GroundUp, 09/07/2020

The Constitutional Court has stated that asylum seekers are
entitled to administrative action that is lawful, reasonable and
administratively fair. And seekers are entitled to adequate
reasons. In this case, the Refugee Determination Officer failed to
measure up to this. The reasons are neither intelligible nor
informative, Western Cape High Court judge Patrick Gamble said in
his ruling this week, as reported by GroundUp.
The matter before him was that of LM, who fled the DRC with her
aunt in 2007 when she was about 12 years old. She settled in the
Western Cape and attended school there.
She was refused asylum in 2014 and in 2016 was threatened with
deportation because, officials said, she does not know her own
country and had given contradictory versions of her date of birth
when she arrived in South Africa.
LM, in her affidavit, said she had some recollections of living
with her mother in the midst of a brutal civil war.
Rebels began burning houses and when I was 12, I recall my mother
handing me over to my aunty, who took me and her own child to
South Africa. It was a long journey.

She said she recalled going to the Refugee Reception Office in
Cape Town in 2007 with her aunt when she was 12. She was granted a
temporary refugee permit.
But according to the document she was born in 1987, not September
1994. And when she applied again in 2014 her asylum was refused,
and in 2016 she was threatened with deportation, on the basis of
discrepancies in her birth date and of apparent contradictions in
what she said about the DRC.
LM said she had only realised that certain details on the form,
including her date of birth, were incorrect when she applied later
for another permit and when her English had improved.
I was scared. I could not understand English. They took my
fingerprints. I had no idea what was being said, she said in her
affidavit.
Gamble said it appeared as though LM’s date of birth had been
overwritten by a marker pen to reflect the date as September 1987,
not September 1994. It is impossible to detect if it was changed,
he said. But the form was clearly filled out by different people,
presumably the official and then a French speaker, the aunt, who
was used as an interpreter, he said.
Regarding the state’s conduct in the litigation, Gamble said there
had been no meaningful engagement.
The response is largely made up of rote allegations, a repetition
of meaningless mantra. They gave no substantive reasons to refuse
to grant her asylum and dismissed the current turmoil and internal
unrest [in the DRC] as lacking any relevance.
Instead, her application was deemed to be “manifestly unfounded”.
International authorities all appear to adhere to the principle
that such a finding can only apply to the clearest of cases, to
weed out fraudulent or bogus claims, said Gamble.
She was at least entitled to know what aspects of her case were
untrue and which were attributable to possible misunderstanding,
given her age when the first form was completed and the
complications arising from language and interpretation.
Gamble reviewed the decisions to refuse her asylum and set aside
authorisation for her deportation. He specifically ruled that the
same official must not be involved in the reconsideration of her
application.
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