Cape Town – The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on Friday ruled that the closing down of the Cape Town refugee reception office by the Department of Home Affairs was unlawful and irrational, citing the department's international obligations to ensure the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.The SCA overturned a Western Cape High Court ruling and found that the department's director-general had ignored the Refugees Act when making his decision. The court also said that he had failed to take into account the level of demand and need for the reception office, said the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) in a statement.The LRC initiated legal action on behalf of the Scalabrini Centre, the Somali Association of South Africa and asylum seekers in general.There have been two previous High Court orders against the closing down of the office, as well as a previous one from the SCA in 2012, where the director-general was given an opportunity to consult with interested parties and to consider the impact of closing down the facility. Despite human rights violation arguments advanced, he made a decision to close it in 2014.The LRC said, in the statement, that closing down the refugee office would infringe on the rights and dignity of asylum seekers and refugees, adding that it was unlawful and unconstitutional."The ability of asylum seekers to access [refugee reception offices] to apply for permits and to support themselves and their family, as well as integrate into their community while their asylum applications are processed, is critically important if an asylum seeker is to enjoy their human rights," it said in a statement.The director of the Scalabrini Centre, Miranda Madikane, said in a statement that the closing down of the office in 2014 had had dire consequences for those who needed its services, and undermined the asylum process."Asylum seekers and their families must travel long distances to the remaining three RROs (refugee reception offices) every three to six months, while they wait for their claims to be processed, which takes many years, including appeals. This results in many asylum seekers being unable to keep their documentation valid," said Madikane in a statement.The department has been given until March 2018 to reopen the refugee office in Cape Town.