Jean-Jacques Cornish

We don’t have an asylum-seeker crisis, says Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba

On World Refugee Day, a number of human rights pressure groups have accused South Africa of using detention and deportation as inhumane tools to manage its migration problems

Lawyers For Human Rights has written a scathing open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa saying his Home Affairs Department is in crisis and flouts court rulings in favor of asylum seekers facing the longest backlog in the world


Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba did not respond directly to the criticism from the pressure groups and NGOs, much of which focussed on Lindela which is South Africa’s largest repatriation  centre outside Johannesburg.

It was repeatedly referred to as a detention centre where human rights are violated.

At a function marking World Refugee Day, Gigaba said South Africa did not have a problem with asylum seekers but was challenged by illegal migrants.

Lawyers For Human Rights said South Africa rejects 96% of asylum applications, often after keeping applicants waiting for as long  as 15 years.

It accused authorities of discriminating against African asylum seekers, noting that there was not a single white occupant of Lindela.

It said asylum seekers in South Africa have to endure official corruption and  routine physical abuse from a system that cripplingly inefficient and operating in flagrant disregard of constitutional values.

Medicines Sans Frontiers has tabled an official complaint that treatment for tuberculosis and HIV /AIDS is absent from Lindela.


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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.