High fives: Fatima Khan, director of the Refugee Rights Project, celebrates victory in the Cape High Court with litigation attorney, Justin de Jager.
“Extremely pleased” is how the UCT Refugee Rights Project described its reaction to a recent landmark judgement from the Cape High Court, in which the Court granted refugee status to project client, one Mr Katshingu.
Katshingu, then 21, fled Goma in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2009 to seek asylum in South Africa. In the DRC, the Refugee Rights Project argued, he had experienced “serious threats to his life on grounds of political persecution and due to the general instability in his place of habitual residence”.
Katshingu sought legal assistance from the Refugee Rights Project after his application for asylum was rejected by the Department of Home Affairs and his subsequent appeal was rejected by the Standing Committee for Refugee Affairs.
The project launched a judicial review of these decisions, and after lengthy court proceedings Judge Bozalek of the Cape High Court set aside the administrators’ decisions and ordered that the Department of Home Affairs document Katshingu as a recognised refugee and pay the project’s costs.
This decision marks a first in the Western Cape where the Court has overturned the Standing Committee for Refugee Affairs and substituted its decision to grant refugee status to a failed asylum seeker.
This litigation has been a long battle, reports the project. It also demanded “stellar work” from former candidate attorney Rebecca Chennels, current litigation attorney, Justin de Jager, and Advocate Suzanna Harvey of the Cape Bar, all UCT law graduates who’d done studies in refugee law with project director, Fatima Khan.
“This case epitomises the successful achievement of the Refugee Rights Project’s vision to merge teaching, practice and research,” said Khan.
The Refugee Rights Project thanked the Sigrid Rausing Trust, which has recently awarded a further three-year grant to its strategic litigation unit. The project is also funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Atlantic Philanthropies.