No toilets for refugees while new offices for Cape Town in pipeline

2018-01-31 09:42

Cape Town – Portable toilets have been removed at the Cape Town Refugee Office, forcing some refugees to use the filthy grounds outside.

But a new refugee office for Cape Town is on the way, says Department of Home Affairs spokesperson David Hlabane in a GroundUp report.

This follows a ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal last September that Home Affairs must "reopen and maintain a fully functional refugee reception office in or around the Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality, by Friday, 31 March 2018".

ALSO READ: Cape Town refugee centre must be opened by end of March

Last year, in December, the Constitutional Court rejected an application for leave to appeal against this ruling by the Department of Home Affairs.

Only four toilets are available to refugees in the Cape Town Refugee Office, forcing some to use the filthy grounds outside. (Tariro Washinyira/GroundUp)

Hlabane told GroundUp: "The Department of Home Affairs has written to the Department of Public Works to get a suitable building for the refugees’ office to give effect to the court order and to ensure that all the needs of refugees and asylum seekers are properly met."

Meanwhile, refugees are complaining about inadequate and inaccessible toilets at the Home Affairs Foreshore offices.

Smelly, filthy mess

When GroundUp visited the offices last week, the portable toilets which refugees used, had been removed.

Some were using the grounds outside as toilets and the surroundings were a mess, smelly and filthy.

Inside the building, women were queuing at the only two toilets available to women refugees.

ALSO READ: Decision to close Cape Town refugee office overturned by SCA

One woman, from Rwanda, was trying to change her baby’s nappy on the floor of the toilet.

She complained about the department’s treatment of refugees.

"Why can’t they make a baby cubicle available? Surely South Africans would never have their small babies lie in toilets like this. And if this baby falls sick I will have to take her to the government hospital where they will treat me badly again," she said.

"We acknowledge portable toilets were removed. Contingency plans were made," said Hlabane.

Basic human rights violated

He said four toilets previously used by staff had been made available to refugees. The refugee office only occupied two floors and the department did not have access to toilets on other floors, he said.

Aleck Kuhudzai of the Refugee Legal and Advocacy Centre, said the Refugee Act gave refugees basic human rights, including the right to dignity, "which is clearly being violated".

Anthony Muteti of Voice of Africans for Change said portable toilets should be made available.

ALSO READ: Revamped refugee centre brings hopes of better service

A Bangladeshi refugee, who gave his name as Abhijeet, said Home Affairs was letting refugees down.

"I don’t need security to walk me up to the toilet. Toilets should be easily accessible. This is the reason people are urinating everywhere."

"Clients are accompanied to the toilets by security personnel for control purposes as there is a need to monitor access to the building," said Hlabane.

Read more on:    department of home affairs  |  cape town  |  refugees  |  human rights

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