The Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, said they are going to take the lead from the Home Affairs Minister regarding the 22 Afghan nationals seeking asylum in South Africa.
Gungubele this morning said at a post-cabinet outcomes briefing that there was a debate about whether to appeal the court ruling.
“The courts advise that what you are concerned about in the appeal is what you can consider, and when they consider whether they qualify for whatever kind of status, the court may not be a necessary platform to deal with that. But we are concerned that any country or human being can just dump people in your country and automatically expect that this country will just accept them,” Gungubele said.
South Africans, including the political party ATM, also expressed concern amid the Pretoria High Court ruling in favour of the 22 Afghan nationals who wanted asylum in the country.
The court ruling was frowned upon by some, who asked why not seek asylum in other countries.
The Home Affairs Department said it would abide by the ruling of the court and take all necessary steps to give effect to the ruling.
This is despite the fact that the department’s Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, opposed the application entry of asylum seekers into the country.
The department said on February 15, 2023 they received a letter from a firm of attorneys representing unnamed Afghan nationals demanding that asylum transit visas be issued to those unnamed individuals at Beitbridge Port of Entry.
Home Affairs spokesperson Siya Qoza said the court issued a judgment on Wednesday, confirming the interim order as final.
“The DHA will abide by the ruling of the court and will take all necessary steps to give effect to the ruling. The DHA will deal with the asylum applications during the asylum process. The decision to abide shows that the DHA respects the rule of law. However, this should not be interpreted as opening the floodgates for spurious asylum claims. The DHA will not hesitate to fight the cases in court as it has done in this instance,” Qoza said.
He said while DHA was preparing a response to the letter, on February 16, 2023, a group of 22 Afghan nationals in the company of American citizens arrived at the Beitbridge Port of Entry and requested to be issued with asylum transit visas in order for them to enter the Republic of South Africa to apply for asylum.
Qoza said the immigration officer refused to do so as they were all issued with multiple entry tourist visas by the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe on 20 January 2023.
Qoza said the lawyers representing the 22 Afghan nationals rushed to the Pretoria High Court on an extremely urgent basis (in the absence of the DHA), and the court issued an interim order allowing them to be issued with asylum transit visas.
“The court, however, allowed the DHA to anticipate the interim order within 24 hours. The DHA did exactly that, and the court refused to confirm the interim order to allow the DHA to file its answering papers. The matter was heard by the Court on February 20, 2023. Judgment was reserved,” Qoza said.
ATM president Vuyi Zungula believes this poses a significant security risk.
“The story of how 22 Afghans got to South Africa after passing through so many stable and safe countries should tell you about a bigger, sinister plan to use migrants to achieve certain goals in South Africa. There is no way a certain US NGO would fight for Afghans to settle in SA out of the blue,” Zungula said.
Twitter user Man of Steel wrote: “The Afghans and the US NGO are not the problem here, as they did nothing wrong no matter the motive. Let us question our judiciary and the types of judges we have because based on this issue alone, I can tell you free that our judiciary is corrupt and incapable”.
Another user, Tlhopheho Modise, wrote: “Why have they not taken them to the US?”
Meanwhile, 19 illegal immigrants were remanded in custody for contravening the Immigration Act.
The Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday remanded Sopnil Sopnil (22). Arifuzzamans Arifu(28), Shariu Ilah Shafiulla (38), Muhammed Bilal (34), Islen Ferhadul (24), Mahammed Ali(34), Bifoy Rayhanul Infaque(29), Uddio Mohin (25), Addin Giyas(44), Morud MD(27), Islam Saiful (35), Hossan Saddam (32), Mohammed Abdullah (21), Sharaz Ahmed (34), Shanzol Dulah Hossain (45) Mahammed Alfan (28) in custody for contravention of the Immigration Act and their case was remanded to 8 March 2023 for the services of an interpreter.
Hawks Mpumalanga spokesperson Captain Dineo Lucy Sekgotodi said the state separated the cases for proper charging of the accused, Juilah Isangs (45), who was charged under the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, Act No. 7 of 2013.
The accused was remanded at Nelspruit Prison, and his case was postponed to March 8, 2023, for the services of an interpreter.
“The accused were arrested during a multidisciplinary intelligence-driven operation conducted by the Nelspruit-based Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation team, Crime Intelligence Nelspruit, Provincial Detectives, Nelspruit Visible Policing team, as well as the Local Criminal Record Centre. Information that led them to the house at KaMagugu was received and acted upon. On arrival at the address, the gate was locked. The team managed to gain entry into the property. They found 19 males packed into a three-bedroom house without furniture,” said Sekgotodi.
She said the preliminary investigation established that 14 of those detained were Bangladeshi, and five were Pakistani.
Police recovered 18 passports, 27 cellphones and cellphone chargers.
The items were packaged together and kept by the caretaker. The suspects who could not communicate in English had passports that were not stamped by South African immigration.
Sekgotodi said the accused were arrested and charged with contravening the Immigration Act.
She said the caretaker, Isangs, was charged with contravening the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, No. 7 of 2013.
The Provincial Head, Major General Gerber, vowed that the team would continue to fight crime with the assistance of the community, which provides valuable information.
The investigation continues.