The Committee considered the Refugees Amendment Bill clause by clause and adopted it. Prior to this, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) took Members through the Committee’s amendments. The Department noted the minor amendments to the Long Title, clauses 2, 3, 13, 14, 18, 20, 21 and 27 and a new clause (clause 31) inserted.
Members suggested that the minimum qualifications for the chairperson and members of the Refugees Appeals Authority should be specified; reasons or requirement that could be met in order to appoint a non-citizens in terms of section 8E(a) should be elaborated on; functions performed by the Standing Committee for Refugee Affairs (SCRA) should not be determined by a single member. They sought clarity on whether this Amendment Bill would come into operation first and, as a consequence, operationalise the 2008 and 2010 Amendment Acts which had been on hold. Despite these concerns, all clauses were adopted without further amendment.
The Chairperson noted that the technical amendments made in the previous meeting had been inserted and they were presented with a clean Bill ready for adoption. He welcomed Ms Fatima Chohan, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs along with her delegation.
Clause by clause deliberation on the Refugees Amendment Bill
Mr Deon Erasmus, DHA Chief Director: Legal Services, took the Committee through the amendments effected in the A List which are the Portfolio Committee Amendments to the Bill. He pointed out the minor amendments with regard to the Long Title, clauses 2, 3, 13, 14, 18, 20, 21 and 27 and a new clause (clause 31) inserted on transitional provisions (see B12A-2016).
The Committee approved the Portfolio Committee Amendments to the Bill: B12A-2016.
The Committee went through B12B-2016 clause by clause and adopted each one. There was discussion on the following clauses before the clause was adopted:
Mr D Gumede (ANC) felt that the minimum qualifications of the chairperson and members of the Refugees Appeals Authority should be specified.
The Chairperson said that he hoped that the DHA would employ a person who was legally qualified and appropriate to perform the work. Further qualifications would be elaborated on in the Regulations to the Refugees Act.
No further changes were made to Clause 7. It was adopted as amended by the A List.
Ms B Dambuza (ANC) said that the clause should specify reasons or requirements that should be met in order to appoint a non-citizen in terms of section 8E(a).
Mr Gumede agreed, saying the DHA should give adequate consideration to Ms Dambuza’s concern.
No changes were made to Clause 10 and it was adopted.
Ms T Kenye (ANC) raised her concern that the functions performed by the SCRA would be determined by a single member and felt that there should be than one member.
Mr Gumede said that the reason for having one person was to ensure that there were no problems in performing the duties. The person should be a legally qualified person and appropriate to carry out the functions. The clause should state that the headquarters of SCRA should be determined by the Director General instead of the Minister of Home Affairs.
No further changes were made to Clause 13. It was adopted as amended by the A List.
The Chairperson asked why the Bill would come into operation immediately after the commencement of the Act 33 of 2008 and Act 12 of 2011:
“This Act is called the Refugees Amendment Act, 2016, and comes into operation immediately after the commencement of the Refugees Amendment Act, 2008 (Act No. 33 of 2008) and the Refugees Amendment Act, 2011 (Act No. 12 of 2011)”.
Mr Erasmus replied that the 2008 and 2011 Amendment Acts were assented to by the President. Once this Bill is assented to by the President, the Bill will become a law and operational along with those two Amendment Acts. This Bill was dependent on those two Amendment Acts.
The Deputy Minister agreed. The Bill could not operate without the two other Amendment Acts. The operation of or commencement of this Bill would automatically bring into operation the 2008 and 2011 Amendment Acts which had been on hold until they were amended and reconciled.
The Chairperson noted that the clarification rather pointed to the 2008 and 2011 Amendment Acts not first coming into operation. Rather, they would commence to operate immediately after this Bill came into operation.
No changes were made to Clause 33 and it was adopted.
Memorandum on the Objects of the Bill was adopted.
The Refugees Amendment Bill [B12B-2016] was adopted.
The Committee Report on the Bill was considered and adopted. The Report would be submitted to the National Assembly along with the Bill.
The Chairperson signed the report and thanked Members for the very important and major work they had done in crafting the Bill that would help the refugee system to function. He asked if the Bill should be debated or simply declared in the House.
Mr Gumede supported a debate on the Bill. However, because of the time constraints, the RA Bill should be declared.
The Chairperson expressed his view that it should be declared since it was highly technical.
Ms S Nkomo (IFP) said that it should be declared because Members of House would zoom in on provisions that they might have a problem with and virtually seek clarity.
The Chairperson agreed.
The meeting was adjourned.