Holders of Refugee permits (section 24 permits) in the region may find solace in the fact that the Social Assistance Act 13 of 2004 makes provision for holders of this permit to benefit from and find relief under the social relief for distress grant.
Human Rights organisations record that a number of asylum seeker permit holders seeking relief for the destruction of their only means of income have had to be turned away due their inability to apply for any forms of government funded relief. Save for costly and often lengthy civil claims.
“Asylum seekers are the most vulnerable persons in our communities” explains Deo Katangole the Peer Counselling Program Coordinator of the Adonis Musati Project. The Adonis Musati Project is a Cape Town based NGO that provides humanitarian assistance to asylum seekers and refugees in the area.
“We allow them to be here (in the country), but do not give them access to any services” adds Katongole . According to his experience the South African government “only takes care of refugees”.
The difficulties faced by many asylum seekers in South Africa and the trauma of xenophobic attacks have been major contributors to the incidences of depression and feelings of helplessness among them. The Adonis Musati Project seeks to address this through its emotional and psychological assistance of asylum seekers.
Often no distinction is made between the holder of a refugee permit and one of an asylum seekers permit. There is currently no legal authority for allowing the reading in of holders of asylum seekers into the definition of refugee and statutory redress or legislative intervention is needed.
By Geruza Nzongo Bumba