While refugee rights organisations marched to Parliament, the Democratic Alliance (DA) today called on Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to prevent the imminent closure of the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office at the end of the month.
DA shadow deputy minister of Home Affairs, Masizole Mnqasela, stated the decision to shut down the centre, situated in Maitland was "an attack on the rights of refugees and many political asylum seekers in our shores".
His comments came yesterday during World Refugee Day commemorations and amid a protest led by refugee rights organisations outside Parliament against the imminent closure of the office.
Mnqasela said the move was a clear indication that the Department of Home Affairs "does not take seriously" the commitment South Africa made when it signed the 1951 UN Convention on the Rights of Refugees.
"As head of government business (at Parliament), the Deputy President should intervene in the decision to close down all the refugee reception centres in this country.
"Should this decision go ahead as planned, the department will undoubtedly face serious litigation cases which will cost government millions of rands."
He said there were "thousands" of political asylum seekers awaiting decisions by the Appeals Board, and some decisions by the Standing Committee on the Refugees Appeals (SCRA) dated back to 2006.
He said he would write directly to Motlante requesting him to give "a clear directive and instruction" to Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to stop the closures.
About 200 refugees and refugee rights activists marched to Parliament to demand the government halt the closure of refugee reception centres and stop deportations.