PRETORIA, President Jacob Zuma on Friday officially opened the refurbished Marabastad Refugee Reception Office in Pretoria, which will be named the Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Centre.

The refurbishment of the Marabastad office was prompted by complaints received from clients about the facility in 2016.

Before officially opening the centre, Zuma, accompanied by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, toured the newly refurbished centre.

Prior to the office being refurbished, there were allegations of corruption, the office did not have enough staff, slow IT systems, inadequate filing systems, and poor management. There were also long queues, overcrowding and allegations of criminal syndicates.

As part of improving service delivery at the centre, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba last year launched the paperless system at the Marabastad refugee reception office to contribute towards eradicating corruption.

The office has been a cause of concern for years due to continued allegations of fraud and corruption, as well as human rights violations.

SAnews spoke to asylum seeker Mongolin Ashusa, who said the new offices make life much easier for them.

“We now submit our documents and wait to be called when they are ready,” she said.

Echoing the same sentiments was Abrahim Moosa, who said in the past some corrupt officials used to ask them for money before they assisted them.

“The new system makes our lives much easier,” he said.

The Department of Home Affairs believes the introduction of automated systems at the Marabastad centre will eradicate long queues and other challenges they experience.

The department also introduced a new application system at the Marabastad centre to ease the process of foreign nationals applying for permits and asylum documents.

Introduced at the end of January last year, the box system has brought some relief to foreign nationals as they no longer have to stand in long queues to get their documents processed. It has also put a halt on corrupt activities.

The box system allows foreign nationals to drop their applications or expired permits inside boxes provided by the department and then security guards collect the boxes and take them to officials inside the centre for processing.

The guards return a few hours later with newly printed permits. They read out the names and owners collect them and leave.