25 March 2019

South Africa: Asylum Seeker Battles Because of Home Affairs' Spelling Mistake

Refugee Yanke Tonga Gillis says he has tried unsuccessfully to get the spelling of his name corrected

An asylum seeker from Cameroon has been struggling with a range of routine issues because Home Affairs has misspelled his name. The mistake has cost him dearly and repeated attempts to rectify it have failed. His name is Yanke Tonga Gillis, but Home Affairs has him down as Crili, not Gillis.

Gillis came to South Africa from Douala in southwest Cameroon in 2013. Home Affairs has refused him refugee status, but he is now awaiting the outcome of an appeal against the decision.

While in South Africa he studied beauty therapy at Tshwane North College. After he qualified, he found it difficult to get employment. He says many employers are sceptical of asylum seekers anyway, and because the name on his certificates does not correspond with the name on his asylum document, employers doubted his certificates.

He eventually opened his own business, Yanke Nail and Hair Bar, in Pretoria. It is registered under his misspelled name. He employs three people.

"If I want to do anything, even a simple thing like registering a SIM card, I have to go through other people," he said.

He has struggled to get institutional finance and he says banks are unwilling to open an account for him. He keeps all his money in cash and he has been robbed.

He wishes to marry but he doesn't feel comfortable registering his marriage with the incorrect name on his asylum document.

Gillis said that in 2015 Home Affairs told him his file was missing. When Home Affairs opened a new file he informed the official about the correct spelling. He was assured that the name would be corrected. It was not. He filled in a form to correct the spelling.

"To my surprise, when I went for renewal on 4 October 2018, my file name hadn't been corrected," he said.

GroundUp has tried to get comment from the Media Manager for Home Affairs David Hlabane and Ministerial spokesperson Siya Qoza, to no avail.

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