In what the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town has dubbed a “historic” decision, Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has granted rights equivalent to permanent residency to the majority of applications that were submitted on ‘special grounds’ by a group of Angolan former refugees.
The announcement follows years of legal negotiations between the Centre and the Department. The group of applicants was issued temporary Angolan Cessation Permits (ACP) which expired in 2015. It became clear that these permits could not be renewed, leaving this group of former refugees undocumented after forging deep links with South Africa.
According to the centre’s director, Miranda Madikane, the applications were the applicants’ last attempt to remain in South Africa – a country where they have spent, on average, the last 20 years of their lives. Some 160 lever-arch files handed to the DHA, documenting the lives the applicants showed that 91% of adult applicants were employed, with 19% business owners. A quarter of the applicants have South African partners, while 21% had South African partners and South African children. Ms Madikane said these examples of socio-economic integration into South African life contributed to the granting of the applications.
Ms Madikane said the Centre welcomed the decision, hailing the efforts of all parties involved, adding that the centre looked forward to engaging further with the Department about this. “We are anxious that these applicants will face uncertainty again in 2021,” she said in a statement, adding that increasing numbers of migrants are falling into undocumented states in South Africa.
A total of 1,702 applications were considered by DHA. Aside from those with criminal records or with police clearance certificates pending, applicants were granted a “blanket” exemption, providing them with permanent residency for a period of four years. 72% of the applicants were granted permanent residency, while the remaining applications from those with criminal records will be decided on at a later date on a case-by- case basis. Ms Madikane said applicants now hold those rights associated with permanent residency, which are effectively all the rights, privileges, duties and obligations of a citizen, save for voting and establishing a political party.
However, it is not clear what will happen after this four-year period. Ms Madikane said the Centre would seek clarification from DHA as to why only four years of residency has been granted. SA