The SA Corruption Watch says it has been investigating corruption in the immigration section of the Home Affairs department and has found massive corruption and shady dealings in it.

The watch reveals this in its latest report titled Project Lokisa: Asylum at a Price released at a gathering outside the Marabastad refugee reception office, and the picture it paints is disturbing.

The investigation was carried out through intensive interviews with reporters, onsite visits, and a sting operation that exposed at least three operatives, CW noted, adding that it has opened criminal cases against those three implicated persons at the Johannesburg Central police station.

In its report, CW said it found that there are numerous opportunities for corruption in the Home Affairs refugee system, which is suffering as a result of these opportunities being exploited to the full.

The department said it has records of threats and solicitation from government officials since 2012. This is aside the 314 report from foreign nationals about extortion, it also received.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg” Corruption Watch Chairperson, Mavuso Msimang said,

“Corruption in the immigration process not only violates the human rights of foreign nationals genuinely seeking safe-haven from war and persecution in their home countries,

“It also opens up opportunities for economic migrants to bribe their way into the asylum system. This fuels a dangerous preconception that all foreign nationals – whether they have genuine legal protection needs or not – are taking advantage of our country’s resources.”

There have been rumor of corruption in the immigration department with patches of irregular activities happening every day, involving Home Affairs officials at border posts and processing centres, as well as security guards, middlemen, metro police, South African Police Service officials, administrators and interpreters.

The asylum seeker has to navigate a minefield strewn with those looking for personal gain, and cough up hundreds, if not thousands of rands before obtaining what is theirs by law and by right. In fact, they have to pay just to get onto the premises.

The most extensive type of corruption revealed in the reports is bribery, followed by threats of violence and deportation.

“No person gets access into the gates of Home Affairs if they do not pay R100 bribe money,” a reporter told us. “If anyone has more than R100 they can jump the queue.”

Popo Mfubu, an attorney at Cape Town University’s Refugee Rights Unit, summed up the cause of  increased corruption in the government system by saying it’s because government fail to enforce good laws.

He said:

“South Africa has one of the most progressive and liberal asylum laws and refugee protection frameworks in the world. However, the disjuncture between law and practice has resulted in numerous points of weakness in the asylum system where corruption has been allowed to thrive.”

Corruption Watch ended by saying it has identified the weaknesses in the system that permit the corrupt to operate. “We have a number of suggestions on how to fix it, but it will require a concerted effort by multiple stakeholders. So far the DHA has declined to co-operate with us in addressing these issues” the department added.