PRETORIA – Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba toured the revamped and technologically advanced Marabastad Refugee Reception Centre, west of Pretoria yesterday, hoping that with the technological advancement, his department could curtail corruption at the facility.

“We hope to complete this process by the end of October so that we can open up this new revamped office which will now be paperless. The services are going to be streamlined… we have put a number of operations managers on the ground so that we assist in the flood of [asylum seeker] applications,” Gigaba said inside the centre.

“We’re introducing an online booking system for people to come and be captured, then see the refugee status determination officers. If, for some reason, the decision on the application has not been made, or they [asylum seekers] have appealed, we have made the extensions of their asylum seeker permits to be paperless so that people can self-extend using kiosks which we are going to roll-out throughout the country.”

Under the new regulations, asylum seekers register for an appointment at automated machines which also captures their fingerprints and other details. Appointment dates with home affairs officials are issued via the machines and only the asylum seekers scheduled for interviews with the officials will be let in, using their fingerprints for access.

“To start with, there isn’t going to be queues outside the centre. Anybody who enters this centre will only do so on the basis of an online booking which means that your fingerprints were already captured. If you are coming to make a booking at the centre, you make your booking and exit without entering the centre,” said Gigaba.

“If you have been provided with an interview day and for capturing of your bio data, you will now rely on your fingerprints to access all the sections. If you don’t have your fingerprints captured, you are not going to have access to the center, and there is no official going to be able to assist you. The process of making online bookings is going to exclude anybody from within the department who could assist you gain access into the centre as [happened] in the past,” he said, adding “Now you can only come to the centre when your date and time for an interview has been set. So there isn’t going to be anybody just standing outside hoping for some luck to enter this centre. Whatever other criminal outside there is not going to be able to assist you.”

Currently, foreign nationals gather outside the refugee reception centre that leads to pandemonium at times as they jostle to access the home affairs offices. Incidents of crime, particularly theft, are common in the area despite the presence of several home affairs security guards and police officers patrolling the area.

Several immigrants, some with young children, sleep outside the centre hoping to regularise their stay in South Africa. Gigaba hoped that the new interventions would usher in a new era of efficient, corruption-free service to the millions of asylum seekers.

Gigaba was flanked by several top departmental officials, including director-general Mkuseli Apleni, deputy director-general for immigration services Jackie McKay, chief director for asylum seeker management Mandla Madumisa, and operations manager at the Pretoria facility Macanda Mthetho.

– African News Agency

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