Home Affairs wasted R147 million on failed asylum backlog project

Issued by Angel Khanyile MP – DA Shadow Minister of Home Affairs
29 Mar 2024 in News

In 2020 the Auditor General raised alarm bells when they indicated that the asylum appeal backlog would take the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) 68 years to clear.

In 2021 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided the DHA with R147 million to deal with the 153 391 asylum decisions appeal backlog. The funding provided for this backlog project, like with most initiatives taken by the DHA, was wasted.

Both the UNHCR and the DHA stated that the project would eliminate the backlog within 4 years. Yet, after a question posed to the Minister, the DA exposed that the DHA is failing miserably at dealing with the asylum appeal backlog and has wasted the UNHCR’s funding.

The Refugee Appeals Authority of South Africa (RAASA), which falls within the DHA and is tasked with dealing with asylum appeals, is currently sitting with 113 689 appeals of asylum decisions.

Worryingly, this number does not reflect the full extent of the backlog at RAASA and does not align with the DHA’s response on the 1st of March 2024 that only 10 890 files were processed by the backlog project, many of which are not even finalised.

Exacerbating the issue, is the fact that the DHA processed 15 000 new applications for asylum between April and December 2023, which added to the massive appeal backlog.

Moreover, of the original 30 members recruited for RAASA with the funds provided for the backlog project, only 10 remain to assist with the never-ending backlog of appeals.

The DHA Draft White Paper on Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Protection presents no tangible plan to deal with this issue. The consequence of this backlog is that it opens up the system to abuse by persons who are not refugees (e.g. not fleeing persecution), allowing them to remain in the system for extended periods. Those who are refugees, and deserving of protection are forced to wait in limbo for up to 10 years for a final decision.

The DHA has wasted over R147 million in funding with little to no progress made, and no tangible solution presented. The DA calls on the DHA to implement fair, transparent and efficient systems, where resources are dedicated by the DHA to clear these backlogs. RAASA cannot be forced to seek out international funding to operate and protect itself from abuse.