South Africa challenging court order to take in 22 Afghans

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South Africa said Tuesday it is challenging a court order forcing it to grant asylum to 22 Afghan nationals who arrived from Zimbabwe where they had spent a month on tourist visas.

A Pretoria high court on Friday issued an order compelling government to take in the Afghan nationals after border authorities turned them away at the Beitbridge border post with neighboring Zimbabwe a day earlier.

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“We’re contesting the interim order,” Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told AFP.

“We’re also contesting the fact that these people are not in need of asylum, we don’t think they are in need of asylum or they followed the normal route of seeking asylum.”

The court heard the challenge on Monday and reserved judgement. The 22 concerned moved on to Zambia after returning to Zimbabwe, a minister said.

Motsoaledi questioned the manner in which the Afghan nationals arrived accompanied by three American citizens.

“Here are people who are supposed to be refugees in serious problems but their arrival is preceded by a letter from a very expensive legal firm,” he said.

The group is represented by an American NGO, which has been named as The Lifeline Foundation, and is spearheading the legal case.

AFP sent an email to the nonprofit organization, but received no response at the time of publishing.

Foreign affairs spokesman Clayson Monyela said in a tweet “Our asylum system is being abused!.”

In 2021, South Africa refused to take in two plane loads of 126 Afghans following the withdrawal of US troops from there after two decades on orders of President Joe Biden.

The request to temporarily receive those Afghan refugees came through what the South African foreign minister Naledi Pandor described as “a rather odd set of letters from South African-based lawyers.”

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